Put “The Power of Fifty Bits” Behind Your Good Intentions


A field guide that features seven structures that tap into dormant good intentions. Ideal for anyone looking to achieve personal goals, make it easy for teams to achieve outcomes and even give their customers a little nudge toward a desired action.

the power of fifty bits

You are not your brain.

Are you having one of those moments of weakness? You’re muttering, “I’m not good enough! Why can’t I do this?” It’s not YOU. It’s your brain. You can drive your brain. You just have to know what buttons to push.

And this is the purpose of “The Power of Fifty Bits: The New Science of Turning Good Intentions into Positive Results” by Bob Nease (@BobNease).

I received a review copy from Bob Nease’s publicist and have to say I was a little confused. Seeing the title, I thought it was a technology book. But then I saw the sub-title and that’s what tripped my trigger. I was all in.

But first (without even cracking the book) I contacted the publicist to get an interview with Bob Nease. I wanted to know more about him and what prompted him to write “The Power of Fifty Bits.”

The Author Behind “The Power of Fifty Bits”

Bob Nease. PhD  is actually an economist. He is the former Chief Scientist of Express Scripts.  He’s written dozens of scientific papers and won several research awards. And all of those things came together in, of all places, a restaurant.

I wanted to know about the moment that Bob got the idea for the book.  He told me it happened the moment the check arrived after a dinner he often has with a group of friends.

“This is so funny!  You see, I’m an economist and we economists are always saying how consumers act rationally.  Well, when the bill came the understanding was that we would simply split the bill evenly.  It was then that I noticed that one of our friends had way more to eat and drink than the rest of us!

This made me so mad until I realized that he was actually doing exactly what we economists stay that he should be doing — acting rationally. This event is what triggered my interest in how the brain works and how we can turn our good intentions into the results we want.”

What “The Power of Fifty Bits” is About

“The Power of Fifty Bits” is all about how to get yourself to do what you want.  An added benefit is that Nease also delivers seven strategies that will not only help you influence yourself, but help you guide others to a desired outcome as well.

There are three underlying forces that shape nearly all of our behavior. They are how we respond to loss, how we respond to delays and how we respond to social expectations.  Nease has designed the following strategies to help you leverage them.

  1. Require Choice: Mandate that people stop and deliberately choose among options.
  2. Lock in Good Intentions: Allow people to make decisions today that will lead to better behaviors in the future.
  3. Let it Ride: Set the default to the desired option and let people opt out if they wish.
  4. Get in the flow: Go to where people’s attention is likely to be naturally.
  5. Reframe the choices: Set the framework that people use to think about and react to options.
  6. Piggyback it: Attach the desired choice or behavior to something that is already attractive.
  7. Simplify Wisely: Make the right choices easy and the wrong choices hard.

For each strategy, Nease provides wonderful examples that will inspire you to create your own structures for success.

What is Best About “The Power of Fifty Bits”

What I loved best about the book is that you’ll find that you’re already practicing some of these behaviors unconsciously. What the book offers  that makes it a worthwhile read is a list of seven strategies that you can use to impact every area of your life.  In other words, you won’t be trying a million different strategies, you’ll already have these laid out.  Just create one that does the trick.

A lot of the examples Nease uses were already familiar to me.  But I’m a brain book junkie, so some of them will be new and interesting for you.  What Nease does well is give you examples and explanations that will inspire you to create your own.

What may be missing are templates or specific instructions for those who need them. If you look for those in a book like this, you may be a little disappointed.

Personally, I enjoyed reading “The Power of Fifty Bits.”  I found it to be educational and entertaining.  Most importantly, I found that it had me looking at my world differently and seeing my own “Fifty Bits” being influenced (or not influenced) in my daily life.

Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."