Help people save themselves, from themselves

People often struggle with the tension between wants, which are things they crave in the moment, and shoulds, which are the things they know are good for them in the long term.

In their column for Fast Company magazine, Dan and Chip Heath make the case that “People need help saving themselves from themselves, and that presents a business opportunity.”

They reference the work of Katherine Milkman, a professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Milkman has studied the way customers wrestle with wants and shoulds, and she suggests bundling the two.

For example, the Heath’s write, “exercising is a should, so what if your gym offered to receive your magazine subscriptions? That way, if you wanted to read the new Vanity Fair (a want), you’d have to drop by the gym. Or, what if Blockbuster offered you a free tub of popcorn (a want) for every documentary (a should) that you rented?”

Look for the tension that lies between wants and shoulds. Treat all customers as highly invested in moving from where they are to where they want to be.

Do they need help “saving themselves from themselves” to get there?