By Ray Richards, co-founder of Do Something Different
Do Something Different is a business with a mission to improve the health and wellbeing of 100 million people worldwide via digital channels. But it started almost by accident. Co-founder and partner Ray Richards explains how it came about and how it’s changing lives for the better.
Do Something Different is a sophisticated technology platform that helps people to change. In general people want to be healthier, more confident and happier, but often they need guidance to make it happen. We design programmes to help people break out of old habits, embrace change, and live more fulfilling and productive lives.
As with many of the best ideas in life, the idea for this business came about quite unexpectedly. I was involved in some consulting with the management consulting giant PwC. They asked me to work on a project to change employees’ behaviour, so I reached out to two professors of psychology, Ben Fletcher and Karen Pine, who are experts in behaviour change.
They showed me the basis of what was to become the Do Something Different methodology. I thought it was really original and we turned it into an online tool for PwC. It was an instant success; it won lots of awards and needless to say they were extremely pleased with the results.
By packaging this as a product and showing it to more organisations, we had a perfect opportunity to create a genuinely purpose-driven business that would change people’s lives.
The three of us incorporated Do Something Different as a business in August 2010 and it was a couple of years later that we launched the first version of the platform we have today. Between then and now the business has grown organically, first through people I knew and then through recommendations.
Our client list is extensive and it includes a lot of global companies; individuals can go on a programme too, choosing from a wide range of programmes available on our website. The idea is that we don’t want someone’s lack of spending power to get in the way of them making changes in their life.
How to encapsulate the power of ‘Do’
We change behaviour by steadily moving people outside their comfort zones, one small step at a time.
This is something all organisations can learn from. To facilitate behaviour change, you must encourage people, without scaring them. Small, manageable steps are the key to success.
The programmes are very diverse but they essentially focus on health and wellbeing. It might be smoking cessation, weight loss, stress or confidence, but the methodology is pretty much the same in each case.
People signing up to a programme answer a set of questions about their personal habits and behaviours. Participants then receive a series of Do’s over the course of the programme. A Do is a micro-action, which we send via a text message and email.
Each Do is carefully tailored to the individual taking part. No two people will receive the same set of Dos, even if we have 20,000 people on the same course, because no two people will have exactly the same habits at the start.
Taking stress as an example, we might ask how often you talk to other people about your problems because we know that a big part of easing stress is sharing issues with people you trust.
If you tell us that you don’t share problems often, then that may become the focus of your first ‘Do’.
The stressed person might get a message saying “Today is ‘solve a problem day’: share a problem with someone you trust. Be open and be honest”. That small action could make a massive difference to one problem. They might do it again with another problem. All of a sudden you have someone who used to bottle things up, growing and developing – and less stressed too.
Why shared experiences matter
When we started out, the phrase ‘behaviour change’ wasn’t used very much. Five or six years down the line it’s much more common. People have realised then when you change the way you think nothing happens, until you also change what you do.
As Do Something Different has grown we have added more elements that helps people change behaviour. We have an online ‘Do Zone’ that gives users the opportunity to log their activity and share their experiences.
It’s important that people know they are not alone and that others are going through similar challenges. Other people’s stories have a motivational effect and we know that people who share their experiences get more from the programmes than those who don’t.
A growing number of organisations are seeing the potential of using Do Something Different to improve employee health and tackle specific issues like agility or attitudes to diversity. We are taking on new clients globally and we’re even translating programmes into Mandarin.
Our ambition is global and our goal is to help 100 million people do something different. We’re a genuinely purpose-driven organisation and I’m very excited about helping more and more people as we grow.
To learn more about Do Something Different click here.