Applying the ABBC cognitive psychology model to business

What is the ABBC model?

Your belief system is key to determining your success. If you have your business structure handled and your team’s efforts under control, your belief system (or the belief system of your team) is the next area to tackle for growth.

The ABBC model, as explained above, charts your journey from an activating event (A), your belief about that event (B1), your subsequent behaviour (B2) and the consequence (C). Changing the belief aspects of this journey leads you to different outcomes that can be more beneficial to your business.

Changing a belief system takes time and care. This tool can be radical, so use it with caution!

How to use the ABBC model

Leaders face strategic events daily. These events may include issues such as the loss of a key customer, poor financial performance, or even negative feedback from business owners. Tackling these events and coming out of them successfully requires you to examine your belief systems and your behaviour critically.

Let’s take an example of a common ABBC journey.

The journey starts with the activating event (A), in this case the loss of a key customer. Your reaction to A is driven by your beliefs (B1) and your chosen behaviour (B2).

In this example, B1 might be a belief that losing a customer isn’t a big problem, as you are capable of finding an even better one. Alternatively, you might believe that this is the worst possible thing for your business. B1 may be a rational or irrational belief, but it drives your behaviour (B2).

Under these circumstances, your belief that your customer loss isn’t an issue might make you instigate increased sales activity – a positive behavioural action. However, if your belief is that losing this customer spells the end of your business, it might also make you blame or punish your team for losing that customer – a negative action.

The consequences of your action (C) are directly affected by your beliefs and your behaviour. Depending on what you believe, you might see increased sales – or you might see your team members leaving the business because of the oppressive work culture and low morale.

Our belief systems are critical for making difficult situations into positive experiences. Not only that, but the belief systems you create in your business can also greatly affect your success.

Encouraging positive beliefs – such as “we can turn this situation around” – can drastically change the outcome of an event. Beliefs such as “it’s impossible” or “we’re not capable” lead to actions that make this a reality.

Step by step guide to using the ABBC model with your team

  1. Understand the A, B1, B2 and C model
  2. Gather your team and encourage an open mind
  3. Draw 4 columns on a page or white-board and write A, B1, B2 and C as headers across the columns
  4. Ask your team to write down under column A an activating event they’ve had
  5. Then get them to write down under column B1 their beliefs about that event, and whether they were rational or irrational
  6. Under B2 get them to write down their subsequent behaviour
  7. Under C, ask them to write down the consequences of their beliefs and behaviour
  8. Discuss why those beliefs and behaviours led to success or caused setbacks
  9. Create tangible actions to help create positive beliefs and useful behaviour in future, with the team’s support

Remember, don’t allocate blame for how beliefs were made, but instead try to discuss what positive beliefs and behaviours should be in place. Make this a collaborative exercise and listen – you might be able to help your teams to come out of the session with a much more positive mindset.