Change – Using a Carrot Not a Stick

escalator-pianoCan fun make people exercise more? Can fun make people recycle more? Can fun improve safety? Won’t it be fun to find out? Now through December 15 is sponsoring a contest to prove the concept that fun is the best way to change peoples’ behavior for the better. The site is looking for submissions of ideas and inventions that support the theory that people will change behavior for themselves or the environment–if making the change is fun.

The concept of positive reinforcement has been proven many times over. Pavlov proved it with his dogs, and every parent knows that children respond better to rewards than punishment. So why not apply the concept to environmental and social initiatives?

To inspire more people to take the stairs rather than the escalator at the Odenplan Subway Station in Stockholm, Volkswagon converted a set of stairs into piano keys. The novel concept increased stair use by 66%.

The open question is whether the initial entertainment factor will translate into long-term behavioral changes or will the novelty wear off and passengers revert to using the stairs? Only time will tell. But in the meantime if a little fun and humor can inspire better behavior, even if it is temporary, it’s still a step in the right direction.

Jennifer is a CPA, CMA, CIA, CFF with a passion for how sustainability can improve a business. She is the owner and President of The Sustainable CFO, making the world better one business at a time. The Sustainable CFO provides consulting, on-demand CFO services, and business coaching to sustainably themed small business. Jennifer has 24 years of experience improving the business operations for a variety of companies in industries such as construction, legal services, and hi-tech. She also teaches finance in the Green MBA program at Antioch University New England. You can visit the website at or follow her on twitter @sustainablecfo.