There is a Chinese proverb that says, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.

During the first two weeks of April 2019, the global HRW teams started their own journey, with a step relay. The rules were simple: log your daily step count via phone, Fitbit, smart watch (or even pen and paper) and enter it in the global count. There were awards to win for:

  • Location with the most steps (average per person)
  • Step-master (highest individual step total)
  • Highest daily step total

So, we set off, stepping and counting across London, Wallingford, Switzerland, and New York City. And with good reason too:

  • Our Oncology Research Business Insights Team (OR:BIT) explained that walking is associated with lowered risk of breast and colon cancer.
  • Our Human Resources team applauded the benefits of exercise to improve mental health.
  • And HRW Shift (our internal team of behaviour change experts) had even more to say, they explained:


Monitoring your own behaviour

(in this case, tracking steps) is actually in itself a behaviour change technique – paying more attention to our activity is going to make us better at changing it.

Goal setting

Is another behaviour change technique – our behavioural scientists explained that Fitbit’s target of 10,000 steps has been incredibly successful because it is a goal that is a stretch to achieve but still achievable for most people, and we noticed most people attaining around 10,000 per day in line with this goal.

Competition and identity

Were invoked in the challenge, offering individual and team level rewards. The Shift team tell us this can be an incredibly galvanising element, with significant evidence that group identity and competition can drive motivation to change behaviour.


Was involved; the promise of rewards has been proven as one of the nine most powerful nudges to change behaviour as catalogued by the UK government Behavioural Insights Team. In this case, general rewards without specific monetary values align with what psychologist Daniel Pink describes as a key to unlocking intrinsic motivation.

So, clearly there’s an argument to keep stepping!

But what were the results? As a company we trotted up a huge 3,287,296 steps over two weeks. An incredible amount. Londoner (and gym bunny) Katy Irving was our individual winner contributing 203,339 steps over two weeks, special mentions were received for Wallingford-based Caroline Jameson and Paul Tinworth who broke 30,000 steps in a single day, and the winning location was……. NEW YORK with an average of 107,250 steps per person. We hope the change to our behaviour, reduced cancer risk, and improved mental health will continue, but excitingly our step total was equivalent to over 1,600 miles: so, in our case, a journey of over a thousand miles really did begin with a single step.

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