Steven Dean is a New York designer, consultant, educator and entrepreneur focused on consumer health and wellness innovation. He is a partner of Prehype, a product innovation studio with offices in London and New York. Prehype has a partnership with 21212 with the objective of getting more corporations to innovate like startups. For our Weekly Talk on January 16th, our team and entrepreneurs had the chance to hear a little bit about Steven’s amazing experience in behavior design.

Steven Dean - Behavior Design

Steven Dean opened the talk by describing his work with the Quantified Self, a movement which promotes health and wellness by encouraging the use of technology for internal data acquisition (everything from food consumed to blood oxygen levels). He also mentioned his work at the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, where the goal is to “design products and services that get people to do things.”

Dean then posed the question, “What is behavior?”

He explained that every startup’s main goal should be to identify the specific target behavior that they are trying to achieve. For example, YouTube created a business around the specific target behavior of uploading videos. Their designers and developers had a difficult task: to make this experience extremely easy and its interface very user friendly.

The description of the specific target behavior must be crisp and meaningful. Once a startup identifies the specific target behavior, the next question is: “How do I get customers to exhibit this behavior?”

There are two dimensions of getting a particular behavior to occur: motivation and ability. A trigger/cue/reminder/call to action must also be present.  In order for a behavior to happen, it must be easy to do, user motivation must be high and a trigger must be in place. All three of these need to occur at the same time.


Behavior = Motivation Ability Trigger**

Steven Dean Graphic


Entrepreneurs’ goal is to create a platform that puts triggers in the path of motivated people. Examples of successful triggers are IFTTT.COM and OHLIFE.COM (daily e-mail prompts for journal entries). If a startup fails to stimulate its specific target behavior, entrepreneurs must ask: Is there a trigger? If there is, then ask: Is the behavior easy to do? Motivation is very hard to design for.

He explained that in design, simplicity is critically important. All great companies started by doing one tiny thing, finding a little success, and building off of that success.

Steven Dean and 21212 Partners about Behavior Design

Dean also shared three insights on human beings. We are lazy, social creatures of habit. There will always be a part of the population that entrepreneurs can’t reach.

Check out this video to hear more about Dean’s thoughts on Brazil!

It was awesome to have Steven Dean in the office to share his knowledge with us and we hope he’ll come back again soon! You can follow him on @sgdean and if you want to know more about him.