Review: Behavior Design Bootcamp w/ BJ Fogg

When was the last time you invested in yourself in a way that created lasting, meaningful change?

So many workshops and conferences seem to be of similar ilk: People talking about what they know and other people listening—some discussion in between... then everyone goes home.

A few weeks ago I participated in a two-day 'bootcamp' that was markedly different. Dr. BJ Fogg is a researcher and professor at Stanford University who runs the Behavior Design lab. For two days BJ and his team taught us everything they possibly could in a 48-hour training at a beautiful venue in the heart of Sonoma county.

Below I provide a quick overview for anyone interested in making the best investment of their career along with a deep dive for those who want to learn more.

The kitchen classroom desk setup

Overview

Highlights

The bootcamp was a fantastic training experience in a beautiful setting with brilliant people and local, home cooked food prepared to perfection. BJ heavily leveraged the 'Feynman Technique' where participants would teach back what they learned in each module using a whiteboard.

This proved to be an effective and engaging teaching method that brought out the best in everyone and challenged each participant to pay active attention and receive dividends in return. It was unlike any other training I'd experienced.

The models and methods we learned were transformative and simple—the best possible combination.

The content is followed-up with a 6-week 'Bootcamp Plus' remote conference call for discussing how we applied what we learned and digging deeper into any concerns we had. This shows just how invested BJ and his team are into empowering their participants with all the tools they need to go out and apply Behavior Design for good.

Critique

There was one particular method that we didn't have time to go into in any reasonable detail, which was a shame, but given the two-day constraint—understandable. Hopefully the 'Bootcamp Plus' will touch more on this.

Verdict

If you're creating digital products and interested in how to leverage research-backed models and methods to change human behavior, I highly recommend checking out BJ's work and enrolling in his next two-day bootcamp.


Deep Dive Review

The night before the bootcamp BJ and his colleague Stephanie hosted an informal meet and greet with some lovely wine from local Sonoma vineyards. We introduced ourselves and learned more about what to expect from the bootcamp.

I was so happy to hear that it would be two days of 'no devices', just listening, note taking on pen and paper, and whiteboarding. This was my kind of event!

Day I

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Arrival

Upon entering the room and setting down our bags, we were drawn through the open plan kitchen / classroom onto the deck with cascading views of the river. Breakfast had been lovingly prepared by BJ's partner Denny: fresh juice, quality cereals, artisanal mushrooms and quiche made from eggs laid locally by the hapy hens clucking away on site.

lovely garden patio area at the bootcamp

The twelve of us enjoyed our nourishing breakfast beneath the morning sun gazing out onto the river.

Photo of the deck and river

Morning I: Getting Started

We quickly shifted gears and moved into the kitchen / classroom where BJ welcomed us and introduced the workshop. He defined Behavior Design as a series of models (ways of thinking) and methods (ways of doing) for changing human behavior in a systematic way.

He introduced the Behavior Design process as a series of methods to give us a sense of how we would apply the models we would spend the rest of the morning learning.

We learned about the Fogg Behavior Model and then BJ put us into groups of threes and had us 'teachback' what we'd learned. He and Stephanie walked through and coached, encouraged and critiqued. BJ is very particular about the delivery of his content, but in a way that is optimistic and helpful.

We changed settings every hour or so, moving from one lovely classroom space to another—balancing inside cool inside space with shaded outdoor space. The change of place, pace of instruction, short breaks and frequency of 'teachbacks' was a powerful combination.

outdoor classroom

Everyone was alert, engaged and... having fun!

It was immediately apparent that I was surrounded by a bunch of brilliant and highly-motivated people. At every break I was diving into some topic of mutual interest with a fellow participant and learning something new.

Lunchtime: Food & River

Lunchtime photo

On a similar par of excellence to breakfast, BJ's partner Denny served a delicious seafood lunch with a vegetarian option that was just as good (I had to try both!). The quality of the food and atmosphere of the space helped fuel the energy and excitement for what we were learning.

We had just enough time to take a quick dip in the river and then it was back to high-paced instruction.

Afternoon

Following a morning full of models and a light smattering of methods, we dove deeper into some of the key methods of the Behavior Design process following the same teaching pattern: BJ and/or Stephanie would teach using a real-world scenario, they would break down the key components of what they taught and then we would break into small groups and teach back to one another.

The timing of this cadence was spot-on and a pleasure to partake. We were able to practice each of the methods on a real problem with support from expert instructors and encouragement from successful peers.

While the models of Behavior Design are profound, seeing the methods applied took the implications of BJ's work to the next level. He shared some stories of how these methods have helped big organizations make key transformations.

Having learned from David Kelley (co-founder of IDEO) at Stanford, BJ has a solid foundation in design thinking and his methods are honed through decades of practice. You can learn any design method by reading about them, but the real value of learning from BJ in person is the specific tactics of delivery, the key points of emphasis and the time-tested sequence of activities.

Evening

Redwood Forest Photo By 4 o'clock we had shifted to yet another classroom space and my jetlagged brain started to wane. I held in for another hour and then went off with some friends to visit Armstrong Forest, a redwood forest that BJ recommended nearby.

redwood forest sky armstrong

walking around with friends

We strolled around the forest and then retired for an early bed, each of us reflecting about our experiences of the day...


Day II

The second day unfolded in a similar fashion as the first with similar cadences: breakfast, modules of instruction and teachbacks, quick breaks; lunch, modules of instruction and teachbacks, quick breaks.

But at the end of the day, we had a fantastic finale that put all our learning to the test. Each of us had two minutes to give a teachback about something we learned that someone else hadn't taught back yet.

It was a rapid fire evaluation and reiteration of all that we'd learned. We were all flipping through our notebooks trying to pinpoint something to teach and then the next person would come up and teach that very thing!

I found it super fun and exhilerating—such a great way to wrap up a bootcamp.

Photo of BJ and I

Wrap-Up

Then after all was said and done, we retired back to the deck overlooking the river where BJ, Denny and Stephanie shared closing words. As a final activity Stephanie handed out dog tags with our names on it (in true bootcamp fashion), except we each received a dogtag that wasn't our own. We were asked to share one thing we enjoyed about this person and provide one wish for them in the future.

Practicing this type of human gratitude and appreciation for others really set this bootcamp aside as something different. Throughout the two days there were instances where BJ and Stephanie would say something in this vein, but here their character and values really shone through.

I find it too rare in this world that we encourage one another and speak truth and light into other's lives. We can be so critical on ourselves and others that it can be incredibly lifegiving to speak and hear positivity.

Conclusion

In many ways the Behavior Design bootcamp was unlike anything I'd experienced. I've invested in a fair bit of high-quality training in my career, but this one was monumental.

I have already begun applying behavior design to my own life and client projects. The models and methods are so simple that they're obviously brilliant.

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.

— Frederic Chopin

If you're creating digital products and interested in how to leverage research-backed models and methods to change human behavior, I highly recommend checking out BJ's work and enrolling in his next two-day bootcamp.