Designing Sustainable Behavior Change

Michael Kim training seminar in skills to perform positive health behaviors

Michael Kim, MPP/MBA

CEO and Founder, Habit Design®

Maria Elena Lara, PhD

Principal Scientist and Investigator, Habit Design®


A core theme in this year’s conference is to “develop programs that engage people and improve their health and quality of life”. However, approaches that focus on “motivating Behavior Change” through persuasive techniques such as gamification, monetary incentives, nagging wearables, peer pressure, tele-coaching, et al. fail to generate sustained engagement: more than 80% of employees who attempt to create new, healthy behaviors still fail at continuing their training after just the first 30 days, and corporate lifestyle management programs return only $0.50 for every $1 invested (RAND, 2015). The CDC attributes 80% of chronic conditions to this inability to form successful dietary, exercise, stress management, medication adherence, and other wellbeing habits, resulting in almost $1 Trillion in lost productivity alone (CDC, 2009).

The problem is not that people resist change, but they resist being changed. While health promotion can motivate employees to make episodic, temporary changes (e.g., monthly fitness challenges, wear a Fitbit, etc.), when it comes to creating lasting results, learning the skill of creating new habits is what is vital for long-term Behavior Change. Rather than artificially boosting motivation or willpower – which eventually wane – many clinical researchers have concluded that mastering the neuroscience of creating unconscious, automated daily routines is the core fundamental skill for any sustained behavior change, because, while motivation gets you started, it is habit that keeps you going.

Developed from eight years of clinical testing of evidence-based research from over 100 behavioral researchers – including Dr. Martin Seligman (UPenn), Dr. Albert Bandura (Stanford), Dr. Ann Graybiel (MIT), Dr. BJ Fogg (Stanford), and many others – this two-day workshop covers best practices in the design of sustainable Behavior Change systems that have led to the successful training of unconscious, daily habits. Through a combination of interactive lecture, video case studies, individual and group exercises, online tools, and real-time smartphone polling, we will cover:

1. A synopsis of the best, most rigorously clinically tested, evidence-based Behavior Change research, distilled via easy-to-use, practical diagnostic tools
2. The building blocks of successful Behavior Change training that improves performance in small yet significant steps, with hands-on exercises and online tools that address real-world Behavior Change challenges
3. How to translate complex behaviors and training regimens into protocols that have high probability of becoming a permanent part of an employee’s daily routine, through crowdsourcing methods also known as “Open Science”.
4. How to design, enable, and measure supportive environments and support systems that ensure Behavior Change is sustained and enjoyable

Presenter Bio(s):

Michael Kim, MPP/MBA

A former Microsoft executive reporting to Bill Gates, Michael Kim was called by New York Times bestselling author, Jim Collins, “a leading authority in how organizations can create sustainable Behavior Change.” Kim served as a senior technology executive and strategic consultant to several organizational performance initiatives at Google X, United Healthcare, Apple, Group Health Cooperative (an affiliate of Kaiser Permanente), Nike+, Caradigm (a Microsoft/GE joint venture), WebMD, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and others. He has served as policy advisor to The White House, advisor to the Chief Scientist of IBM, and advisory board member at the MIT Media Lab. His previous academic research was conducted at the Harvard University under Professor Clayton Christensen, founder of the discipline of “disruptive innovation” and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, where their research results were referenced in Christensen’s Innovators’ Prescription.

Maria Elena Lara, PhD

A former University of Washington Psychology professor and co-founder of one of the largest clinical &
organizational psychology practices in Washington, Maria Elena Lara is Principal Scientist for Habit Design and a licensed, & certified clinical psychologist. After completing her PhD from Stony Brook University, Dr.
Lara conducted her clinical internship at the University of Washington Medical Center and was appointed to the University of Washington Psychology department. Supported by The Ford Foundation, over her 20 year clinical and research career, she has supported organizational psychology and behavioral health initiatives at dozens of companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Costco, Expedia, and others.