Moving the line of action


Buying gas for a vehicle is both easy (finding, doing, paying) and salient (gauges as well as low fuel warnings). People need no help to fill up. However, non-consumption occurs when something is perceived as too hard or unimportant. 

Consider the barnacles on your to-do list. The ones that get transferred to the new piece of paper or system or from physical to digital and back again. I’ve had items last longer than green bananas but the end is the same for both: buckle down and get it done (in the case of bananas, bake bread). 

Eventually you do roll up your sleeves, mentally brace yourself, and collect the necessary tools only to frequently find that dreaded task takes much less time than expected. If we’d known it was that simple we’d have done it much earlier. 

My wife and I bought a mattress from an online store. It’s fine. We ordered online because the perceived ease was greater, though we found out that Amazon (not where we ordered from) raises the bar for ecommerce and other companies often fall short. Amazon shifted the line of perceived ease for online orders well south of its actual location.

Business owners, volunteers, and persons on the internet can all shift the line by raising the salience and (perceived) ease. telling stories, structuring information, or bringing attention to a situation. The history of tuna demonstrates both these points. One year the California harvest of non-tuna was less than expected and fishers faced filling the tins another way. They caught larger fish, called it ‘chicken of the sea’ and packaged it with recipes pre-printed on the paper labels. ‘Hey’ the thinking went, ‘this is white meat too’. 

This model works as a way of thinking about the world but it only works as a model. There’s no Lego-style instructions. Rather, consider the JTBD for your customer, reader, team and find ways to be more salient and easier. 

In the pay-what-you-want short reading on Tyler Cowen, we highlighted how moon affiliation (wrong reasons, right or wrong outcome) shifts the action curve down. 

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