Q. Are a lot of companies using behavioral science to improve their businesses?
Yes. Here’s a quote from a recent Harvard Business Review article: “...Increasing numbers of companies are looking to build a behavioral science team — one that is located at the very center of their business and that the whole organization can benefit from…. Someone in marketing might use their behavioral knowledge to develop more-effective campaigns, while at the same time someone in HR uses theirs to focus on employee engagement. Sales could be developing a behaviorally informed strategy, while operations looks for ways to cut costs...”
Q. How long did it take to make the Meeting Map? What was involved?
It took almost two years to develop the Meeting Map. We sat in on meetings between architects their prospects and had hundreds of conversations with passive architects and builders who described to us what occurs in these meetings. Most importantly, we studied (using a lot of behavioral science) what was behind the decision and why prospects were consistently failing to see the value of a passive house or ZEH.
Q. What if the people who meet with me already know about passive house or already like the idea of building a passive house?
What we discovered is that the barriers that keep a person from choosing a passive house are basically the same for prospects who know about passive house already (and say they want one) and those who never heard of passive house before. So the Meeting Map should be equally effective and necessary in both cases.
Q. What is the Magic Words Fallacy or Magic Bullet Fallacy?
The Magic Words Fallacy is the belief that if an architect or builder uses a particular combination of words a prospect will choose a passive house. It assumes that the architect’s or builder’s use of language can surmount the many barriers and unconscious biases that currently are preventing a prospect from opting for a passive house. In other words, the idea ignores the real barriers to a prospect choosing a passive house and ignores what’s really going on in the prospect’s decision making process. There is no magical sequence of words that will get a prospect to opt for a passive house and those who focus their energies on a search for those magic words will be frustrated in their efforts.
Q. What blind spots do people have when they meet with an architect or builder and are presented the option of building a passive house?
There are 8 big ones. One of them is temporal discounting. This reduces the perceived value of certain attributes of the passive home, such as energy and repair savings. Another is a bias toward the familiar which pushes them toward a conventional home even when the passive house is clearly better. Yet another is the tendency (or inability) to differentiate between the expert’s advice (the passive house architect or builder) and the opinions of non-experts (such as relatives and others). The result is that the uninformed may bear greater influence over the decision and contradict information from the experts.
Q. Can the way we describe passive house to our clients and potential clients—the language we use—overcome these blind spots?
No. Language is an important tool but it’s not enough to overcome the blind spots. This is why we developed the Meeting Map — to give passive house architects and builders a way to reduce these blind spots. This is also why we see the Meeting Map not as a better option for those selling passive homes but as absolutely necessary to their efforts.
Q. Did you think about how most firms operate when you were designing the Meeting Map?
Yes. We set out certain requirements so that the Meeting Map would be easy for firms to use. The Meeting Map had to be effective, low cost and not require an increase in the firm’s fixed costs or labor costs. It also had to be easy to use so that the architects and builders who used it did not need to devote a lot of time (time they don’t have) to adopting this new practice.
Q. Will this get people to accept higher construction costs?
Yes. In fact, this was one of our goals. However, we recommend that the difference in construction costs between the passive house stay below 8%.
Q. Given the significant value of the attributes of a passive house and the only modest increase in early cash requirements and early costs, is it surprising that the adoption rate is so low?
It is surprising that adoption rates are so low (or that so few people choose a passive building when presented with that option) if you see people as rational actors capable of doing what is in their own self-interest. Yes, when we do the math, it’s obvious that home buyers, developers and lenders are consistently failing to act in their own immediate and long-term self-interest (Yes, we’ve done this math).
Even when we discount climate benefits and only look at benefits that are directly delivered to the owners of the buildings, the benefits and value far outweigh the early additional cash requirements.
However, when you see people as they are, as non-rational actors whose decisions are subject to any number of blind spots (and whose brains rely on a number of unconscious shortcuts, shortcuts that make us very error prone in certain circumstances), it’s not surprising at all that so many home buyers and developers continue to choose conventional buildings over passive buildings. In fact, it’s very predictable. People are doing exactly what the behavioral science predicts they would do.
Let’s talk about the home buyer here. Because of 8 blind spots (and the effect of these blind spots on the home buyer’s decision making process) there is a huge divide between what the home buyer does and what is in their self-interest. If we reduce the size of this divide by addressing those biases and blind spots, then more home buyers will choose a passive house—and this is exactly what the Meeting Map is designed to do.
Q. How do I know if this is a smart investment for me to make?
Because many firms are so small there may be a hesitation to take on any additional cost. However, what’s extremely expensive for most firms is all the time they spend with prospect who never go to contract. This is a massive drain on any firm. Another drain is all the time they spend writing emails to answer their questions about passive house. So we expect that the cost of the Meeting Map will be far lower than the cost of these time drains.
Q. Shouldn’t manufacturers pay some of the costs of the Meeting Map since every time I get a prospect to agree to build a passive house they profit from my efforts?
Yes, we think so and we recommend that you ask the sales reps who ask you to use their products if they have invested in this effort (and we want to thank our excellent sponsors for supporting this work). We also recommend that you ask the reps what they are doing to make it easier for you to convince your prospects to choose passive house.
Q. How can I learn more about the Meeting Map?
Feel free to contact us to have a conversation about it and watch the recent PHAUS webinar we did talking about the challenges of the prospect meeting.