Piano Staircase – Great Example of How to Change Behavior

“Fun can obviously change behavior for the better.” This is Volkswagen’s theory about changing behavior and this video is a great example of how they tested and proved their theory. The people at Volkswagen call this “The Fun Theory

Most people struggle to get exercise because it’s hard work. We’ve all heard that it’s better to take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, but let’s face it, if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. You can see in this video, there was a big motivation for taking the stairs–it was fun. For many of the people who use this Odenplan plaza metro station in Stockholm, Sweden, the escalator got most of the traffic until they installed musical piano keys to the stairs. Then the stairs got 66% of the foot traffic.

Pain and pleasure are the two key ways to change behavior and increase motivation. But there is an art to balancing the two. Lasting behavior change must honor this balance. If the scale tips too heavily to one side, it ceases to be effective. If the music staircase would have been longer or at a steeper pitch, there’s a good chance that people would have still used the escalator instead. But this project was perfectly balanced: not too much effort (pain) required to walk up the stairs, and it was fun (pleasure) to play the keys with every step.

Kudos to Volkswagen for their innovation and emphasis on using fun to change behavior. I’ll dig deeper into The Fun Theory later.


  1. that’s a very creative idea 😀 i love the way they changed the people’s behavior , thanks for sharing that scott
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  2. Brendon says:

    Awesome video. We can use this on ourselves too. I love listening to podcasts on topics of interest. So I listen to them when I go for runs. Going for a run becomes no longer something painful but something pleasurable.

    • Yeah, I loved it too. It’s amazing how we can be fooled into a little exercise when it’s masked as something fun. But I guarantee you, if that stairway was twice as long, the results would have been different. There’s a limit to everything and everyone has his price. 🙂

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