behavioral science principle #5

Status quo bias


Status quo bias happens when we choose (consciously or not) to stick with what we have—even if a change would be better.

For example, in 2015, Pepsi brought back its classic Pepsi Challenge. They set up tasting stations in malls across the country and asked people to choose the better-tasting cola—Pepsi or Coke. A significant majority picked Pepsi over Coke on taste alone. While the campaign was a brilliant marketing tactic, it didn’t move the sales needle much. Coke drinkers blindly tasted Pepsi and chose it over Coke, yet the next time they were in the supermarket, they defaulted to the status quo.

The same kind of inertia can happen in a workplace setting. Employees of all levels and roles tend to resist change, which can stifle diversity, squelch innovation, and prevent them from taking advantage of benefits and education programs.

HR application

Author and entrepreneur Josh Linkner encourages human resources and benefits leaders to resist the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mindset and instead adopt a “break it to fix it” approach.

“It’s a call-to-arms, challenging us to confront products, systems, approaches, and processes that are working fine,” he says. “Instead of waiting for outside forces to render the current state obsolete, it is the proactive approach of getting there first.”

One way to overcome status quo bias is to harness the power of story. Humans naturally connect more with narratives than facts or numbers. Use stories to encourage new ways of thinking and build engagement with new benefits or initiatives.

Back to all principles
Back to top