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Welcome to Merge's Monthly Mega Minute - a bite-sized, yet substantial and practical, nugget of information that you can use immediately to enhance your professional and personal success.

Use the “convenient fruit principle” to influence employee behaviour

One of my favourite hotels always has a large bowl of fruit sitting on the counter in their front desk area, available to any of their hotel clientele who want a quick snack. Recently, as I checked in one evening, I mentioned to the front desk agent that I felt the onset of a cold. She helpfully recommended that I boost my Vitamin C consumption. To which I laughingly responded that their fruit bowl never contained oranges, only apples and bananas. She paused, and then earnestly replied, “Oh, we tried adding oranges, but no one ever takes the oranges, just the apples and bananas. So now we just leave them out.”

At first thought, you might assume that this discrepancy exists because most people like apples and bananas more than oranges. But when you consider it further, the reason is much simpler. Apples and bananas are easy to eat, but oranges are not. As delicious as oranges are, you usually need a knife to eat them, and if they can be peeled, most times they are quite messy. So hotel guests looking for a quick and easy snack always pick the apples and bananas. I call this the “convenient fruit principle”, and it applies just as much in the workplace as it does at snack time.

You can use the “convenient fruit principle” to motivate desired employee behaviour. Simply by making things easier or more difficult – apples and bananas versus oranges – you can encourage or discourage people from behaving or acting in certain ways. For example, if you want your field technicians to submit their work logs daily so that you can invoice promptly, give them the technology to submit their reports from their vehicles, and build in at least 15 minutes at the end of their shifts for them to do so. When you make it simple – apples – they’ll be more likely to do want you want.

Or are you looking for ways to get more feedback from your customers about a new product or service? Give them as many avenues to contact you as possible – telephone, email, in person, and a variety of social media options. When you make it easier – bananas – they’ll be more likely to offer you their insights and experiences.

The “convenient fruit principle” can also work the opposite way. Libraries, generally, want to encourage their patrons to use their automated systems for routine activities as it frees up their desk staff for more complex requests. By having only one or two people manning the counter, but over a dozen computers available just adjacent, library users are discouraged from going to the counter for routine requests; they are much more likely to go to the computers because they are convenient. The desk staff are the oranges, and the computers nearby are the apples and bananas. Oranges are more inconvenient, so people most often pick the apples and bananas.

Another example of the “convenient fruit principle” in action is how one organization designed its vendor setup approval procedure to encourage more electronic funds transfer (EFT) payments rather than cheques. Since it is easier and cheaper to process EFTs, the company wanted to discourage the use of cheques. So they implemented a process in which any vendor wanting payment by cheque would need to submit additional documentation and obtain approval from a company supervisor, all of which took more time. Because of the additional paperwork and time involved (oranges), most vendors opted to go the EFT route.

So the next time you are thinking about how to change employee (or anyone else’s) behaviour, think about how you can put the “convenient fruit principle” to work for you. How can you either give apples or bananas to encourage certain actions, or offer oranges to discourage certain behaviour? Let me know what you are doing or you are seeing that illustrates the “convenient fruit principle” in action? Please comment directly on the blog at

Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur

Eighteen years ago, I took a leap of faith from employee to entrepreneur. In my latest column in The Globe and Mail, I share the Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur. While everyone’s entrepreneurial journey will be different, I hope that these will help you avoid a few speed bumps along the way.

Open-enrollment leadership training announced for Calgary and Edmonton!

For the 5th year in a row, Merge is partnering with CPA Alberta to deliver twelve full-day leadership and workplace communication programs in Edmonton and Calgary from now until March 2020. If you work in a smaller organization that doesn’t have the budget to conduct onsite leadership training programs, this is a fantastic cost-effective opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development! These one-day sessions are very reasonably priced at $450 per day (and include a light breakfast and lunch!), a fraction of what it can cost through some commercial vendors.

Turning Managers into Leaders

That Merge offers short-term one-on-one mentoring to high-potential leaders?

Sometimes being in a leadership role feels like you're caught between a rock and a hard place! Your managers have increasing demands of you – greater productivity, improved customer service, and stronger leadership. Your staff have unrelenting questions and problems — process bottlenecks, escalating workloads, and interpersonal conflicts. And all the while, your time and resources dwindle. You know you're capable of getting things done; after all you have a proven track record that speaks for itself! But, things just aren't falling into place the way they normally do! At times like these, all you really need is an independent perspective to support you as you assess specific issues and determine your options and consequences. Someone who really "gets" what you are dealing with, but isn’t constrained by any organizational "baggage". This is exactly where Merge can help! In just the last 12 months, she has worked one-on-one with over 40 high-potential leaders in a variety of organizations to help them gain insights into and resolve their unique leadership challenges. Find out more at our website, or read this Mentoring case study to get a better idea of Merge's approach.

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