The Benjamin Franklin Effect

The Benjamin Franklin effect is a psychological phenomenon named after the American founding father, Benjamin Franklin, who first described it in his autobiography.

It refers to the counterintuitive idea that a person who has already performed a favour for someone is more likely to do another favour for that same person than if they had received a favour from that person.

In other words, when someone does a favour for another person, they tend to rationalise their behaviour by assuming that they must like the person they helped, otherwise, why would they have helped them in the first place?

This leads to a positive perception of the person they helped, which can then result in a greater willingness to help them again in the future.

The Benjamin Franklin effect demonstrates the power of cognitive dissonance and the human tendency to align our actions with our beliefs and attitudes.

It suggests that our actions can influence our attitudes and feelings towards others, rather than just the other way around.

A Strategy for Influencing Change

How could one capitalise on this effect in the context of implementing a business improvement initiative in a medium sized company where the culture is one where change takes place very slowly?

Let’s consider a medium-sized company where the culture is resistant to change, and implementing business improvement initiatives is challenging due to the slow pace of acceptance.

1. Start with Small Requests

Begin by asking employees for small favours related to the improvement initiative. For example, you could ask for their input on a particular aspect of the project, such as suggesting ideas for process improvements or participating in a brainstorming session.

2. Acknowledge Contributions

Whenever employees provide their input or assistance, acknowledge and appreciate their efforts. This acknowledgment could be in the form of a thank-you email, recognition in team meetings, or even small tokens of appreciation like gift cards or company-branded merchandise.

3. Gradually Increase Requests

As employees become more accustomed to participating and contributing, gradually increase the level of involvement and responsibility.

For instance, you could ask them to take on specific tasks or roles within the initiative, such as leading a working group or implementing a pilot project.

4. Highlight Success Stories

As the initiative progresses, highlight success stories and achievements resulting from employee contributions.

Share these stories through internal communication channels such as newsletters, intranet updates, or company-wide meetings.

This helps reinforce the positive impact of their involvement and encourages others to participate.

5. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Influence

Foster a culture of collaboration and peer support by encouraging employees to share their experiences and successes with their colleagues.

Peer influence can be a powerful motivator, as employees may be more inclined to participate if they see their peers actively engaged and benefiting from the initiative.


By leveraging the Benjamin Franklin effect in this manner, you can gradually shift the attitudes and behaviours of employees towards embracing change and actively participating in business improvement initiatives.

Over time, this can help create a more receptive and adaptive culture within the company, leading to greater success in implementing future initiatives.

Food for thought.

More Information

This article was written by George Lee Sye, author of PROCESS MASTERY WITH LEAN SIX SIGMA – the best lean six sigma text book in the world today.

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