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You’ve just invested in a shiny new piece of technology. You’ve been told it’s guaranteed to make things easier for your team and stakeholder groups, even the third parties who interface with you. It’s going to make you more efficient, streamlining processes and reducing handoffs. Except it’s not. And why? Because your people, stakeholder teams, and third parties aren’t using it. Read on to learn more about new tech and how this can affect sectors of behavioural science.

Behaviour change is extremely difficult – we can all relate to how hard it is to maintain those New Year’s Resolutions we set ourselves only one month in. We are complex beings and there are many components at play which drive behaviour – old and new.

Chances are you haven’t just plugged in the system and told people to get on with it – you’ve probably sent out comms, run training, and provided user guides, so you might find yourself wondering what else you can do. The temptation at this point is to try and design more solutions – more training? More comms? More “merch”? Sorry to say there is a good chance these things also won’t cut it if you don’t first truly understand why people aren’t adopting your new tech.

How to identify what’s holding people back?

We recommend starting by understanding what barriers your teams have to adoption as ultimately, if we don’t understand why people are/aren’t behaving in a certain way, how can we change it?

This is where applying models of behavioural change, which synthesise theoretical insights about how and why we behave in certain ways into actionable tools, can be extremely helpful.

One behavioural change model which can help diagnose barriers to adoption is the COM-B. The outcome of a systematic review of nineteen behavioural intervention frameworks by Susan Michie and colleagues, the COM-B suggests that there are three components to behaviour (B):

  • Capability (C)
  • Opportunity (O)
  • Motivation (M)

For behavioural science to be examined and occur, an individual must feel they are physically and psychologically able to do so (C), have the physical and social opportunity to do so (O), and want to do this behaviour over anything else (M).


These components interact with each other, reflecting the dynamic influences on behaviour over time. For example, by giving someone the knowledge/skills and changing their environment enabling the behaviour to occur more easily, we can also positively influence their motivation to do it. Positive feedback cycles are then created every time someone carries out the new behaviour; the more they practice something new, the higher their perceived capability to do it will be which should increase their motivation to do it.

So, when it comes to understanding why people aren’t adopting your new technology, you can take a closer look at each of the components that make up different sectors within behavioural science, drilling down into them to understand potential barriers within each.

Understanding these will mean you can define interventions in a far more targeted way to increase capability, remove barriers to opportunity, and drive motivation.


Capability refers to whether we have the knowledge, skills and abilities required to complete a behaviour. It’s made up of two components:

  • Psychological capability: our knowledge, skills and psychological strength (e.g. Attention and memory)
  • Physical capability: our physical strength, skills and stamina

To understand if your people have the capability to adopt the new tech, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do people have the right knowledge and skills?
  • Do they remember how and what to do?
  • Are they distracted?
  • Do they have the intention but don’t follow through?

If you think people have barriers within capability, consider the following interventions:

  • Training targeting the specific knowledge and skills each user group needs to get their jobs done in the system i.e. not a generic, one-size-fits all training session for all
  • Cutting training down into bitesize sessions – favour shorter e.g. 15 minute sessions spread throughout the week instead of 1 hour session
  • Build training prompts into the system to serve as reminders at key points
  • Provide deep upskilling to one person in each team who acts as the ‘go-to’ support person (making sure this person is incentivised to do so and is sufficiently influential in the team)


Opportunity refers to the external factors that either facilitate a behaviour happening or make it less likely to happen. It’s two components are:

  • Physical opportunity: environmental cues and resources, such as time, location, and money
  • Social opportunity: social norms and cues that drive or inhibit behaviour

To understand if your people have the opportunity to allow them to adopt the new tech, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can we adjust the physical situation to make adoption more likely to happen?
  • Are there time constraints?
  • Are senior leaders modelling?
  • Do people have the resources?
  • Do people around them help or hinder them?

If you think people don’t have the right opportunity to adopt the new tech, try the following:

  • Single-sign on to your new technology to reduce friction at the point of entry
  • Quick access shortcuts on their desktop
  • Personalise set up so it works how the user wants
  • Shutting down old instance of tech
  • Ensure they have enough time in their day to engage with training by sending diary blocks which the whole team need to get on board with
  • Get senior leaders using tech e.g. To drive meetings


Motivation is key within behavioural science studies and refers to all the cognitive and emotional processes that influence us and make us choose one behaviour over another. It’s two components are:

  • Reflective motivation: reflective processes such as making plans and evaluating things that already happened
  • Automation motivation: automatic processes such as our desires, impulses, and inhibitions

To understand if your people have the motivation to adopt the new tech, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What habits are in place already?
  • What are the rewards and incentives?
  • Do people want to carry out the behaviour?
  • Do they believe they should?

If you think people are struggling with motivation to adopt the new tech, you could try:

  • Incentives and rewards for attending training – remember driving capability will influence motivation
  • Incentives and rewards for using the new tech
  • Share reviews from other companies who’ve adopted the new tech
  • Share reviews from other teams who have adopted the new tech, as well as stats backing up the benefits you’ve touted
  • Personalise notifications

The COM-B model is a powerful way to identify barriers to tech adoption and craft tailored interventions that are more likely to influence capability, opportunity, and motivation, where needed. Before launching your new tech, take the time to understand what the potential barriers might be, before diving into designing solutions.

If you’ve already launched but it’s not landing well, you can follow the same process but maybe also consider running through some of these questions with your different user groups – they might help uncover simple barriers to adoption which can be easily fixed. It could be something as small as having to re-enter their email every time they launch the system.

Optima have a track record in helping companies previously struggling with technology adoption, in turn, ensuring behavioural science intervenes to transform negative detractors to engaging and enthusiastic adopters.  To arrange a chat reach out directly to Millie Peacock, Design & Transformation Manager, [email protected].