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How To Win Better Clients With Choice Architecture

Do your Clients need a nudge? 

Today I would like to talk about a subject that’s rarely mentioned in our industry: Choice Architecture.

I want to show you why it’s important, and how it’s being used to win more Clients, promote ethical standards, and achieve better design projects.

Let’s start with the basics, what is Choice Architecture?

What is Choice Architecture?

The term “Choice Architecture” was first coined by Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler and his colleague, Cass Sunstein, in their best-selling, behavioral economics book called “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness”. 

The term refers to the way choices are designed and presented to consumers and the impact those choices have on the consumer and the world as a whole. 

Nudge and LEED Certification

Thaler and Sunstein argue that, Choice Architects (the people who design choices) have the power to influence the decisions that people make.

They suggest that better designed choices can encourage better decision making. Decisions that don’t just benefit the consumer’s own health, wealth and happiness, but also the health, wealth and happiness of those around them. 

How does Choice Architecture work?

For example, in one study involving high school cafeterias (Chapter 1), they showed how a few simple changes to the way in which food was being displayed caused students to make 25 percent healthier food choices.

In another study, involving the men’s urinals at Amsterdam airport, they showed how etching a black house fly in the center of the urinal, provided just the right target to reduce spillage by as much as 80 percent.

Choice Architecture and House Flies
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These are just two very simple examples of how Choice Architects are encouraging people to make better choices and how those choices may impact our everyday lives. 

The importance of Choice Architects:

Hopefully you can start to see just how important Choice Architects are, especially when we consider life’s bigger decisions – decisions that impact everyone’s health, safety and welfare… like the design of the built environment and the spaces that we live, work and play in. 

So what does Choice Architecture have to do with fee proposals? 

As Design Professionals, we all write fee proposals to win work, which means we are all Choice Architects! 

… and as Choice Architects we have the power (and responsibility) to write fee proposals that encourage Clients to make better design choices. 

Choices that will have a positive impact on the health, safety and welfare of the individual and the public. 

(Note: To help you with your fee proposal and negotiation strategy we’ve created a FREE Fee Proposal Mini-Series. To learn more click on the image below):

Choice Architecture and Professional Codes of Conduct:

Of course, we already know the importance of helping Clients make better choices. Most Design Professionals around the world are already sworn to a Code of Ethics that helps to promote these ideals.

For example the American Institute of Architects (AIA):  2018 Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct includes the following Ethical Standards (E.S.): 

E.S. 1.2 Standards of Excellence:
Members should continually seek to raise the standards of aesthetic excellence, architectural education, research, training, and practice.

E.S. 1.5 Design for Human Dignity and the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the Public:

Members should employ their professional knowledge and skill to design buildings and spaces that will enhance and facilitate human dignity and the health, safety, and welfare of the individual and the public.

Obligations to the Environment:
Members should recognize and acknowledge the professional responsibilities they have to promote sustainable design and development in the natural and built environments and to implement energy and resource conscious design.

So, if we already know the importance of helping Clients make better choices how can we become better Choice Architects?

The problem of course is that designing higher-quality, and more sustainable buildings typically requires a higher level of commitment from the Client – be it in terms of time, finances, or sometimes risk. 

… and if we’re not careful with our approach, we run the risk of losing clients who aren’t prepared to make that higher level of commitment. 

How to become a better Choice Architect:

Here at Blue Turtle Consulting we’ve been implementing the concept of Choice Architecture for nearly a decade. It’s a concept we first learned about while working for arguably one of the most respected and successful architects of our time: Norman Foster. 

Key to Choice Architecture:

The key to Choice Architecture is simple – don’t force decisions on the Client as they will most likely be rejected. Instead, make sure the Client is provided with an opportunity to make a good decision, and make sure it’s an easy decision for them to make.

Just like food choices in high school cafeterias, or house flies in urinals, if you force the decision students will avoid the cafeteria, and travelers will cause more spillage.

Instead; place the option in plain sight, give people choice, make the decision easy, and you’ll be surprised at how many people end up choosing the better option.

Sustainability and Choice Architecture:

For example, sustainability is a big issue for Architects and Design Professionals in today’s highly competitive market.

However, if you only offer the Client one (sustainable) design services option there is a chance you’ll loose the project to a less qualified, and more affordable, competitor. 

Instead, why not offer them a range of sustainable design service options at different price points.

For example, you can offer Gold vs Silver vs Platinum LEED design service options within the same fee proposal. 

Or you can offer a LEED vs WELL design service options within the same fee proposal. 

Note: Animated solutions to this approach, including the design of a fee matrix, are available at the Fee Proposal Workshop. To get started CLICK HERE to watch our FREE Fee Proposal Mini-Series.   

Ethical Benefits of Choice Architecture:

By presenting different version of sustainable design service options in this manner we can achieve the following goals:

1) We avoid the risk of losing those Clients who can’t afford, or aren’t prepared to make a high level of commitment (i.e. Platinum LEED or WELL design service).

2) We’re educating the Client on the different ways (and benefits) sustainable design services can be delivered (AIA Ethical Standard 1.2).

3) We’re giving the Client something to aim for… a more sustainable service option (CANON VI).

Yes, we are required to provide a urinal that works… but a urinal with a house fly etched into it, works even better – once available it becomes an irresistible choice for many consumers.

…and that is what being a Choice Architect is all about…

it’s about designing choices to help people make better decisions.

The Responsibilities of a Choice Architect:

We have to remember that as fee proposal writers we inevitably have influence over the design services that people buy… and that influence comes with great responsibility! 

This responsibility should not be taken lightly. We should all learn how to write fee proposals more effectively so we can help our Clients make better purchasing choices – choices that improve the health, safety, and welfare of both the public and the individual.

How can you start implementing Choice Architecture? 

We have over 10 years of experience helping Design Professionals become better Choice Architects by writing better fee proposals. 

To help you with your fee proposal and negotiation strategy we’ve created a FREE Fee Proposal Mini-Series. 

To learn more click on the following link: