How Lazy Are You? – Decision Making and the Lazy User Model

On her latest adventure for TNI, Carol-Ann Morgan sets off in search of the Holy Grail, deciphering the complicated codes left by the puzzling world of decision makers.

Market researchers spend much of their time working on projects which seek to understand how buying decisions are made. There is no shortage of literature on the subject – academics have equally been seeking the answer to this all important question through their research. However, the nagging question at the back of everyone’s mind is whether or not we are chasing the unattainable – the Holy Grail. There are actually so many variables at play, and each decision maker puts them together in different ways for different decisions; based on the context and the relative importance of the decision. Additionally, how much of rationalisation of our decision is actually put in place post decision-making in order to maintain our own self image, equilibrium and esteem. All of these issues, well documented as they may be, have troubled me for years.

In my search for the holy grail (the answer is out there!) I came across the “Lazy User Model”. It rang true to so many decision makers I have spoken to throughout my career. The model, relatively recently developed (2007), tries to explain how an individual selects a solution to fulfill a need from a set of possible solution alternatives. The central tenet is that the user will select the solution which carries the least effort on the part of the user.

The starting point is the user need; only solutions which meet 100% of the needs are considered, thereby avoiding any wasted effort on solutions which require compromise. Coupled with this, only solutions which suit the user state ie the position of the user at the time, are considered. The user then limits consideration only to those solutions which are plausible. The user then chooses the least effort solution from the plausible options. Effort can be defined as the combination of cost (£) and time, plus the physical and mental effort required.

“My hypothesis is that it is that combination (lowest level of effort) that is, by far, the most important driver in determining how we select products / services from the “list” of choices that we have.” (Collan, M., 2007)

Fig 1: The Lazy User Model of Solution Selection

Collan and Tetford (2007, Lazy User Behaviour) developed their model with consumers and their selection of mobile phones and other technology related products in mind. I have observed this phenomenon amongst B2B decision makers when recounting, their approach to choosing new suppliers and new products during research focus groups and interviews. A degree of post rationalisation of decisions can mask this practice, but on closer examination of the data, it can be recognised.

They say no one ever got sacked for choosing IBM (or any well known, reputable brand for that matter), therefore, an aversion to changing anything that either works, or “should” work, could be a factor facilitating adoption of this model. Maybe if market researchers could establish a respondents’ attitude towards risk, and their effort expended on decision making it may throw more light on just how and why B2B decision makers choose new suppliers and adopt new products.

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