Friends Don’t Let Friends Have Rubbish Meetings. Peer Pressure to ‘Do The Right Thing’

A greeting card you can send to fellow knitters
A real greeting card you can send to fellow knitters*
Friends don’t let Friends …. Knit Drunk. Sorry to start a post with such a disturbing image.

It all started with a schooner of sweet sherry, now just look at those loose stitches, and the wool colours. All so preventable and very wrong.

Sometimes it is necessary to share startling graphic images to highlight the consequences of doing the wrong thing. Only then your friends might step in and ‘nudge’ you in the right direction.

After dabbling with Behaviour Change Science in the last post, ‘Meeting Lemmings and Choice Architecture’, I’m sticking with the topic. This time it’s about using peer pressure to ‘nudge’ people towards having better meetings….

Friends Don’t Let Friends…. Do Lots of Things. There’s a lot of material on the internet about Peer Pressure and the ‘Friends don’t let Friends…’ campaigns. Alongside the dozens spin-off T-shirts, posters and other paraphernalia there are plenty of papers and articles describing the effectiveness of the approach. A great deal of it is linked to the world of social marketing campaigns in Public Health, aimed at areas like; preventing drink driving, anti smoking, anti drugs and general ‘improve your lifestyle’ messages.

Possibly the most well-known campaign and character is Smokey Bear, who started life back in 1944 as part of an initiative to reduce the number of forest fires in the USA. By 1983 Smokey Bear had expanded beyond Forestry, into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to head up the anti drink driving campaign. During the period 1983-1999 alcohol related road fatalities in the USA dropped from 21,000 a year to 12,500. The success of the Smokey Bear, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign led to Smokey being inducted into the Advertising Week Walk of Fame in 2014 (have a read of the article, it is interesting).  There are plenty of videos of Smokey Bear online if you fancy.

So what else can Peer Pressure do? Getting back to where I started, could peer pressure be used to help nudge people into having better meetings? Is there room in the corporate world for a ‘Friends Don’t Let Friends Have Rubbish Meetings’ campaign? Could we have T-shirts, posters and lapel badges to support the campaign?

Obviously the office isn’t the forest, and we don’t have bears we could enlist in the campaign. However, I have been reading some serious research (from the Journal Nature you know) which talks about examples of how peer pressure has had the desired effect of changing behaviour. Inducing Peer Pressure to Promote Cooperation, describes how social mechanisms (mostly peer pressure) are able to encourage cooperation between people and promote different behaviours.

There are some interesting examples in the paper like:

  • Micro-lending – where there are higher rates of repaying loans because people know each other and feel peer pressure to pay back what they have borrowed.
  • Water Use – people putting pressure on neighbours not to water their lawns when there is a water shortage.
  • Lobster Fishing – the Maine Lobster Fishery as an example of a successful sustainable fishery operated through the involvement of the fishermen in regulating the fishery and each other (peer pressure).

Lobster on Nova Scotia
Lobster in Halifax Airport, Nova Scotia
I’m particularly interested in the Maine Lobster Fishery as an example of successful ‘co-management’ between the Government and the Lobster Fishing Businesses. This may be an example of ‘co-production’ which is talked about widely in Wales at the moment.

This article by Monique Coombs in Grassroots Economic Organising  explains the organisation and the self-regulation of the Maine Lobster Fishery

Whilst I was in Nova Scotia last year some people I spoke to said that elements of the Maine peer regulation model had been adopted there. I apologise for the half tartan lobster picture. It’s from Halifax Airport and I’ve been desperate for a chance to use it….they do love their lobsters in Nova Scotia.

Will ‘Friends Don’t Let Friends Hold Rubbish Meetings’ work?  I think there is a good chance. There is sound historical evidence that the approach works (Smokey Bear), academic research into the theory, and practice from the extremely difficult world of catching lobsters.

Dealing with a few office workers cannot be that difficult in comparison? Most people want to have better meetings, they just need some help from their friends. All we need are some lapel badges, posters and T-shirts, and we should start the better meetings revolution.

So, What’s the PONT?

  1. Peer Pressure has a powerful effect on changing people’s behaviour.
  2. Campaigns like the Smokey Bear “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” are recognised as being highly successful.
  3. Everyone wants to have better meetings, we just need some help from our friends, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Hold Rubbish Meetings”.

Linked Post: A while back I wrote about social marketing being used to prevent deliberate grass fires in Wales – ironically we’ve just had the worst period of deliberate grass fires for years.

Picture Link: *Drunk Knitting  I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’ve just found a community for Drunk Knitters on Facebook.

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

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