The behavior change wheel is a behavior change toolkit. It includes a behavioral model which says that behaviors are a function of capability, opportunity and motivation. The toolkit also details interventions and tools which can help change behaviors.

Summary by The World of Work Project

The Behavior Change Wheel

The behavior change wheel is a model that seeks to capture both the factors that affect behaviors, and the different types of interventions that can be used to change behaviors.

If you’re interested in organizational change, you can learn more about the things that we at the World of Work Project focus on when leading change in our online Udemy course, The Three Lenses of Leading Change.

The behavior change wheel is a synthesis of 19 prior models of behavior change, and is considered to be evidence based. You can learn more about the wheel and see it here. University College London also run summer-school programs through which you can learn more about this subject.

A diagram / graphic showing the Behavior Change Wheel

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The behavior equation

The first part of this model is presented as the green inner core of a wheel. This is the model’s behavioral equation: B=COM. This says an individual’s behavior (B) is a function of their capability (C), opportunity (O) and motivation (M).

In this model, capability relates to an individuals underlying psychological and physical abilities. Opportunity relates to both their social and physical environments and motivation relates to both their underlying automatic and reflective processes. Further supplementary work exists in relation to each of these factors, particularly motivation.

Intervention functions

The second part of this model is shown as a red ring around the core. This part of the model is comprised of nine intervention functions. Each intervention function has the ability to affect one or more of the underlying factors of behavior (COM). These intervention functions are suitable for both small scale and individual behavioral changes, or can be applied across larger populations.

Each of the nine intervention functions identified in the model can be used to affect at least one of the underlying factors of behavior.

  • Education has the ability to increase an individual’s psychological and physical capability, as well as their reflective motivation.
  • Persuasion, incentivization and coercion all have the ability to increase an individual’s automatic and reflective motivation (note, these are three functions that we’ve combined here).
  • Training has the ability to increase an individual’s physical and psychological capability, their physical opportunity and their automatic motivation.
  • Restriction has the ability to modify an individual’s physical and social opportunities.
  • Environmental restructuring has the ability to modify an individual’s physical and social opportunities as well as their automatic motivation.
  • Modelling has the ability to increase an individual’s automatic and reflective motivation, as well as their social opportunity, and
  • Enablement has the ability to increase physical and psychological capability, physical and social opportunity and an individual’s automatic motivation.

A library. Education is one of the tools detailed in the Behavior Change Wheel
Education is a powerful tool for changing behavior.

Each of the nine intervention functions has a role to play when designing a behavior change intervention. In addition to these broad function are a set of 93 behavior change tools that can be used to change behaviors. These tools are grouped into 16 categories which are show in this post. To learn more about them, you can download the “BCT taxonomy app” (Apple / Android) .

Policy categories

The third and final part of the model is shown as the grey outer ring of the wheel. This section is comprised of seven categories of policy that could be used to enable interventions that affect behavior. While these policy categories are perhaps designed with national policy in mind, they can be of significant use in supporting behavior change at an organizational level.

The policy categories within the behavior change wheel each have the ability to create or support one or more of the intervention functions. We’re not going to review these policy categories here, nor how they interact with the intervention functions, but more information can be found online in relation to these categories and how they can be used.

Learning More

It might be interesting to have a look at Lewin’s Behavior equation or the Blumberg model. To learn more about how people feel going through change, it might also be worth looking at the Bridges model or the Change Curve.

The World of Work Project View

The behavior change wheel is a great framework that provides real, practical clarity in relation to how to change behaviors. For most people though, it’s too complicated for what they need. If you’re genuinely interested in creating large scale behavior change initiatives then we full recommend reading more about the model on-line.

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Michie S, Atkins L, West R. (2014) The Behaviour Change Wheel: A Guide to Designing Interventions. London: Silverback Publishing. There’s more on this website too: www.behaviourchangewheel.com.

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