On Saints, Jerks and Food Donations

This week’s book learning draws inspiration from ‘Switch’ by Dan and Chip Heath-

A group of 100 Stanford students were first identified, based on past behavior, as either charitable or uncharitable i.e. as saints or jerks.

Next, half of these students got a basic letter – bring canned food to the booth at the Tressider Plaza.

The remaining got a detailed letter with a map to the precise spot, a request for a can of beans and also asked them to pick a time when they’d be near the spot so they aren’t inconvenienced.

2 weeks later, the results studied were as follows-

For the basic letter – 8% of the saints donated. No jerks did. They were so far living up to their reputation but the saints weren’t doing much better either.

For the detailed letter – 42% of the saints donated and so did 25% of the jerks.

Isn’t this incredibly inspiring? A little bit of detail and specificity got 25% of the most uncharitable students to donate to the drive.

Bottom line – If you are hungry, you are better off relying on a jerk with a map than on a saint without one. :D

Another illustration of ‘What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.‘ Chip and Dan Heath identify shaping the path as a key part of the change process. Eg: Setting up our gym clothes along with a glass of water next to our bed will likely increase the probability of hitting the gym.

Here’s to clearly describing the path to change this week!