Three ways to tell people what you do for them.

You can use these concepts for good or manipulate people. Don’t manipulate people.

Loss Aversion

People are afraid of losing. The pain that people feel because of a loss is about two times as strong as the feeling of joy a gain gives them. Sometimes you need to frame the question in the right way to help people move into action. You can say: Project A has a 20% chance of succeeding. And Project B has an 80% chance of failing. It’s the same thing. Because we want to go for the project that succeeds and avoids the project that fails, we will choose Project A every time.


Sometimes people need to feel ownership of the project. Once people have put work into something, or have had a chance to hold onto it (physically or metaphorically), they start to own it. People can take ownership of a project that they haven’t started yet, or for their part of the project for which they have been allowed to have ownership. The higher the sense of ownership, the more engaged people will be. It seems like an obvious statement, that is worth repeating–because it’s true.


Sometimes it is hard for people to understand what value you are bringing to the table. What people need to know is how your product stacks up relative to other things that they value. Think about how much you pay to an employee for a month (assume about $3000.) Think about saving that failing project. It is probably about the same value. And because you can see the relative value, you know how much a project rescue should cost.

These ideas are taken from Dan Ariely and Jeff Kessler’s book Dollars and Sense.