Shawn Stein
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Behavioral Intelligence
Behavior Intelligence, what is it really?

The short answer is actionable insights deciphered from anonymous crowdsourced data, based on human habits and routines.

In other words large amounts of data amassed from human behavior transformed using advanced algorithms into comprehensive intelligence that can be used for strategic decision making. Hence Behavior Intelligence.

The long answer… Well, let’s spend the next 7 minutes going down the rabbit hole, starting with understanding how human behavior is formed.

We form behavioral habits through actions and rewards. We are hard-wired to act on what we can do to get a reward. We don’t ask ourselves if we’re tired when we go to grab that coffee, or even if we really need it — we repeat the pattern automatically to get the reward from that great cup of coffee in the morning, which forms a habit.

“An impulse to act on a behavior with little or no conscious thought,” (Nir Eyal)

Half our day becomes a series of habits, a type of autopilot, with good and bad habits being formed in the same way. In fact 43% of the time people are doing what they did yesterday and the day before in the same context, and before we know it, half our day is a routine of learned habits. (Source The happiness lab podcast, Lauri Santos)

The power of Rewards — So how do rewards turn habits into routines that shape our behavior?

As soon as we get the reward, our brains code the behavior that resulted in achieving the desired outcome. A couple classics are the endorphin rush after exercise, or a more contemporary example when checking social media.

Now let’s kick it into high gear and form the routine. What the brain actually hard codes is a specific sequence of actions that lead to the reward, and it’s that sequence that creates a routine which is critical to habit formation.

“When your brain experiences something wonderful, it drops everything to remember the exact sequence you just did to get that reward”. (Katy Milkman)

It is not enough just to list the individual actions of each step but the sequence of behaviors as a single routine — What experts call chunking.

Chunking uses a subconscious sensory motor system, so habits become mental shortcuts. We no longer activate conscious thinking to get the reward, our subconscious just triggers the routine, automatically and all stored in perfect sequence — driving is a great example. Once we establish a sequence that becomes a subconscious routine, it’s so powerful that interrupting the routine with a temporary piece of information creates friction.

Let’s take examples of interruptions while driving and look at how they disrupt the sequence and weight of consequences leading to accidents. Distractions that lead to the least amount of accidents are those that fit a natural habit, performed within the subconscious, things like adjusting controls, smoking, eating or drinking, lead to 1–2% of traffic accidents. While distractions from other occupants or foreign objects, which break into the conscious, lead to 5–7% of accidents. Cell phone use results in 12% of accidents, it can be argued that while this task takes the driver out of their sequence, perhaps unfortunately can be learned as a habit. By far the highest cause, at 62% of accidents is “lost in thought”. A driver’s ‘mind wandering’ takes them completely out of the subconscious sensory motor system, and literally and figuratively takes the driver out of a safe behavior routine and puts them in danger.

Right about now, you’re asking what does this have to do with behavior intelligence?

Let’s recap real quick. We’ve established how powerfully a sequence of actions that lead to rewards form repeated routines, and that transforming these habits into actionable insights enables strategic data-driven solutions. Well, the outcome is behavior intelligence.

By taking that vast amount of routine data, from multiple sources and mobile phone activity signals, data that is completely anonymized and aggregated, we can start to form some very powerful and meaningful conclusions.

Commuters travel in the same way everyday, cities can gain visibility into traffic patterns, where congestion is occurring (repeatedly), where they need waste management, how to distribute critical resources or smart allocation of bus routes and stops, and other public transport, and finally having a way to measure impact with real-life data. We can even determine aggregated behavioral patterns, and by using predictive analytics, understand why some of those driving sequences are disturbed, pinpointing accident indicators which in turn can keep drivers, travelers and pedestrians alike safe.

To take it even further, understanding why residents go from place to place is so much more informative than just visibility into the travel pattern, for example seeing that residents are leaving a city commercial center and frequently traveling to neighboring cities for a home decor establishment. Providing just this one insight on commercial needs, fills a knowledge gap, and city planning decisions can now be data-driven. A simple data-driven solution would be to attract a home decor retail operation into the city center to provide a missing need.

How is behavior intelligence helping the world?

Let’s expand this to larger macro insights, on a global scale. The possibilities are endless once the fundamental understanding is grasped, that of the ability to identify anonymized aggregated habit forming routines.

I’m glad you asked, this is actually a really good story. When it became apparent that COVID-19 will become a pandemic that will rock the foundation of all our lives on a global scale, the team developed Neura’s COVID-19 emergency response system.

By taking all our knowledge of behavioral intelligence and fusing that with epidemiological data, we discovered very quickly (and confirmed by government officials) that only by digitally mapping the virus’ spread, and providing predictive analytics that can give visibility to the invisible transmission of the virus, can we cut the chain of infection.

And that’s where Neura succeeded. By applying advanced machine learning algorithms, we built a series of insights on top of our behavior intelligence platform. By looking at the seeding and spreading of the virus 10–14 days prior to the inflection point and going back to where and when the virus was transmitted, Neura can accurately predict where it’s going, and once and for all get ahead, and cut the head off the snake!

Read more about Neura’s COVID response here>>

Now let’s Zoom in..

If you have one more minute, lets travel back into the driving example, and take it to an entirely different, micro direction, that of individual engagement.

Behavior intelligence can tell you for example that since someone is driving, and they are engaged in a complex sequence, we’ve learnt that interrupting that sequence is extremely difficult not to mention dangerous — you should in no circumstances send them a message at that time. Unfortunately 99% of all consumer messages do not take into account user context, whether the user is driving or not, but imagine you can. Imagine we can tell you exactly when an anonymous user is driving, at the gym, busy at work, or involved in other activities that are deep into subconscious sequencing and your chances of having the message opened is close to 0%.

In the same measure, let’s imagine that you require 7 minutes of your users time, for example to have a buyer fill in a membership form, and you’ll need to entice your buyer with what’s relevant for them.

First we identify that the consumer is not engaged in a subconscious sequence to make sure the conditions of availability are maximized, Timing = on the bus.

Next we want to tap into the habit formation to elicit a reward, but what to say? Well, since we have analyzed habits, and established that we can segment users into personas, identifying a frequent traveler, coffee lover, workaholic. Persona = Hi-tech worker, button up polo shirt. And lastly we make sure to trigger the endorphins — Buy for $100, pay $50. Reward = Half Price Deal

The right time (on the bus) + Know your buyer (hi-tech persona) + The right offer (50% off) = 87% higher conversion

What’s next… Well I’ve demonstrated how we can zoom all the way out to a global level and into a specific moment — so what’s next, well we’re looking at outa space…



Neura merges with Otonomo bringing mobility intelligence to the mobility, transportation and automotive industries. Read More