🍔 🧾  Double Discounted Burger Edition 
Welcome back to your Human Risk Newsletter filled with more lovingly-curated Behavioural Science  (BeSci) inspired content. 
New to this? Check out the Intro to Human Risk, the Newsletter Archive and then subscribe yourself here.
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Coming up in this edition
1. A Burger King promotional error that cost $8.3million is Human Risk in action;
2. How BeSci Interventions are helping to reduce plane boarding times;

3. Research that explores how people are increasingly using social media to diagnose their own medical conditions is Something that made me think; and

4. A new BeSci podcast is my Something for the weekend recommendation.

Human Risk in action

Human Error (aka Risk) caused an $8.3million loss for a Burger King franchisee. The way the company dealt with it is a case-study in how to manage Human Risk.

Carrols Restaurant Group is Burger King’s largest franchise operator. Given their expertise, they generally outperform other BK locations. So when they "only" posted a 4.5% growth in same-store sales, against a 5% overall growth rate for BK, something didn't seem right.

They investigated and found that they had launched a discount on purchases of burgers to stimulate demand. The idea was that people would buy discounted burgers, but then purchase normally priced fries and drinks. 

However, due to what appears to be a programming error on their cash registers, customers who took up that offer were also given a "value meal" discount if they ordered fries and a drink.  A "Double Whopper" of a saving...

I'm sharing this for two reasons. Firstly, it provides a clear illustration of how, perhaps counter-intuitively, technology can increase Human Risk.  Very often, people wrongly conclude that technology will automatically decrease Human Risk because machines don't make mistakes. The problem with that logic is that the machines do what they're told to by humans! 

Secondly, there are lessons we can learn from the way the company dealt with the issue. 

On their earnings call (which is when they explain their results to research analysts), the
Chairman and CEO was incredibly forthright. He noted that "it was not a successful strategy. It was not an accounting issue. It was not a systems issue. It was a mistake"

Then he went on to say "we spent a lot of time dealing with this convoluted mistake. The fact of the matter is, it was a mistake. We screwed up."

He concluded the call with these remarks: 

"what I would like to say is, again, I apologize for the confusion around this discounting issue. It was - it's difficult to explain, and I just want to make sure everybody understands. It's not an accounting issue. It's not an add-back issue. It's not a restatement issue. It was a mistake and the underlying business is very strong."

To say that this is not a common approach is an understatement.  Not only is it refreshingly honest, but the signal it sends to employees is clear:  the boss has your back! 

If we want people to be transparent when things go wrong, then following this approach is far more likely to be effective than merely telling people to do it and hoping for the best.

To read the earnings call transcript click here and for a report on the story, read this article.

In the interests of #burgerbalance, one of my video blogs last week featured McDonald's who had a Human Risk related issue of their own. To see my other video blogs visit
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A BeSci Intervention

Both airlines and airports are using BeSci to help reduce the time it takes to board planes.
If you've ever flown with a low-cost airline, you'll be well aware of the often customer-unfriendly techniques they deploy. Like the infamous charges imposed by Irish airline Ryanair.

So I was intrigued to hear that a US-based low-cost airline, Southwest, has been deploying BeSci to help improve the time taken to board planes. This matters, of course from the airline's perspective, because the longer the plane is on the ground, the less money they earn from it; every minute on the ground is reckoned to cost them $1m.

You can see the kinds of changes they made here.  A key component of which involves reducing customer uncertainty.  If you understand and mitigate people's anxiety, they'll feel more relaxed and, whisper it, are more likely to go along with your processes.
Meanwhile, Gatwick, London's second-largest airport, is also trialling new forms of boarding.  Though they are more traditional.
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Something that made me think

Recent research illustrates an increasing trend for people to use social media to help diagnose their own medical conditions.
If you're ill, then the traditional solution is to go and see a medical professional.  In the 21st century, you might also ask for an opinion from Drs. Facebook, Google and Reddit.

That's what some new research sought to examine.  Recognising that many people trust social media and also want quick solutions, the study aimed to investigate the underlying dynamics.  IT identified that crowd-diagnosis, when people seek out medical diagnoses through social media, has increased dramatically in the past year.

The research makes several conclusions and issues warnings about the potential consequences.  To read it, click here or here for an article summarising the key points.
One potential explanation is that people are uninhibited when sharing their symptoms online, in a way they aren't in person. In simple terms,  we're embarrassed to tell other people things, but we will  share it with a machine. 

What I call the "truth serum of search" (the idea that if you want Google to give you the best possible results, you have to tell it the truth) is also covered in Seth Stevens-Davidowitz's excellent book.
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Something for the weekend

A new podcast explores how behavioural change insights are being applied "in the wild"
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that, for obvious reasons, I abbreviate Behavioural Science to BeSci, rather than BS! 

So I was amused (and delighted!) to see a fabulous new BeSci podcast called "It's All Just A Bunch Of BS".
Presented by BeSci expert Nick Hobson (who also goes by the name of The Behaviorist), it features renowned behavioural experts talking about how BeSci is applied "in the wild".

He's released six episodes so far, and each provides fascinating insights on how BeSci is being used.
"It's All Just A Bunch of BS" is available here and wherever you get your podcasts.
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Incase you missed it...

Speaking of podcasts, last week, I launched a new feature on the Human Risk podcast.

Following my interview with Tom Hardin in Episode 2, he's back as my co-host.
Human Risk Talk is a free-form discussion where Tom and I look at stories in the news and see what we can learn from them about the drivers of human behaviour. 
Once you've listened to it, do let us know what you think.  Your feedback will help shape future episodes.

Coming soon...

One of you suggested that I should include details of other BeSci-related events in this newsletter.  

I thought about it and then realised that part of the reason I don't include those, is that there's already an excellent newsletter that does precisely that. 

So, for unparalleled coverage of BeSci events, job opportunities and other related content, do check out Habit Weekly.  And many congratulations from me, to editor Samuel Salzer, on reaching his first year newsletter anniversary! You'll also find him on Episode 6 of "It's All A Bunch Of BS".

That's it for another newsletter.  Thanks for reading!


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The newsletter is brought to you by Human Risk, a Training & Consulting Firm that specialises in the deployment of BeSci in the fields of Risk, Compliance, Conduct and Culture
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