Paperwork Impacts Behavior

A common (and mainly accurate) complaint about paperwork and processes is what seems like the futility in it. However, remember that these seemingly futile things can have an effective and positive impact on behavior.

I was reminded of this listening to a podcast from Malcolm Gladwell (Listen here). The podcast talks about the rule in some states that a doctor has to write out a prescription in triplicate - one copy to the patient to have filled, one kept on file at the doctors office, and one sent to the state. Some states thought this was too much and didn't require it.

Note: This was put into practice before everything was on computers.

In subsequent years and studies, an interesting thing was found. States that had the triplicate rule had fewer cases of opioid overdoses. The study found that doctors who knew that there was a record at the state level were more hesitant to prescribe opioids. In fact, the big pharma companies knew this and didn't even bother marketing opioids to states that had the triplicate rule.

In essence, that silly paperwork that doctors had to do, actually ended up saving lives. Your company's expense report policy probably doesn't save lives, but it shows that these policies do impact behavior, sometimes in dramatic ways.