Behaviour Nudging – Insights into a framework to help you implement organisational change.

We all have embedded psychological biases that pre-determine how we respond to familiar situations. Deciding to read this blog for example, some will click here and read on, some will not. The decision you take is driven by your curiosity and perceived value biases. The curious will get access to the value on offer, the time pressured miss out.

It is that simple.

For the curious who have clicked through, I will briefly explain the MINDSPACE framework, first developed by Paul Dolan, professor in behavioural science at the London School of Economics and neatly brought to life in the book ‘Ripple – by Jez Groom and April Vellacott.

MINDSPACE is a mnemonic, (much favoured by academics and consultants), and explains the idea generation framework used by Jez when working Paul as a way to simplify the 9 behavioural science principles that underpin much of their work. For Change Leaders and Change Makers these 9 principles contain insights that will help us understand how to nudge behaviour in our own organisations.

  • The M, is for the messenger. We are all heavily influenced by who communicates the message to us. This is why ‘celebrity’ endorsements is a multi-million dollar industry! If you have a change message to land make sure you give it someone with genuine credibility within your organisation to lead the charge.
  • The I, is for incentives. Our response to incentives are shaped by predictable mental short-cuts, such as our desire to avoid loss. If we understand what can be lost by not moving to the new behaviour then lead with this as an incentive. Loss avoidance is far more powerful than showing what can be gained.
  • The N, is for Norms. We all tend to adopt the behaviour of those we see around us as we follow and comply with the social group we believe we are part of. Take a look at a crowd of football supporters and see how body language is copied around the crowd. Using nudges that are representative of the ‘crowd’ you are aiming at, can have a multiplier effect on the impact you make.
  • The D, is for defaults. We all have a tendency to stick to the default option as this is just easier to do. For example asking people to ‘opt-out’ and then ask them to explain why, will encourage the majority of us to simply ‘opt-in’. Make the new behaviour a whole lot easier than the current behaviour and, hey presto, it becomes a new habit.
  • The S, is for salience. Our attention will focus on what appears novel yet is familiar to us. Take another look at the Guinness message at the top of this blog encouraging us to stay at home during the pandemic. Notice how familiar it looks. The change leader challenge is to make the change message impactful, yet somehow familiar.
  • The P, is for priming. Our acts are often influenced by sub-conscious cues. Presenting change messages in a way that primes the outcome you desire. For example on a food product label, ‘80% fat free’ is far more appealing than ‘contains 20% fat’.
  • The A, is for Affect. Our emotions play a significant part in our behaviour. Stimulate the desired emotional response and the behaviours will follow. This is why Balfour Beatty’s ‘Zero harm’ health and safety campaign put pictures of children on motorway roadworks informing us that their ‘Dad works here’ The impact in making us slow down and stick to the revised speed limit is proven to work.
  • The C, is for commitment. We seek to be consistent with our public promises and reciprocate acts. If you are leading a change say what you intend to do differently and ask others to commit to their own behaviour change too. We are all in this together feeling will help build commitment to any large scale behaviour change.
  • Finally, the E, is for Ego. Put simply we will be attracted to behaviour change that makes us feel good about ourselves. This is why so much of the advertising around expensive, luxury brands is in this emotional, aspirational ‘feel-good’ space. The challenge for Change Leaders is to position the behaviour nudge in such a way that the new behaviour has an Ego payback. In the Metro stations, the ‘fat stick man’ floor signage leading towards the escalator and the ‘thin stick man’ signage pointing towards the stairs, is a great example of this in practice.

This MINDSPACE framework can be deployed in a small ideation team in around 50 minutes, and typically generates around 45 to 50 ideas, (more if you have Game Changer / Strategists in the group). Selecting those ideas that have the biggest impact takes about a further 10 mins, so in around an hour you can develop insights that will help you nudge behaviours towards you desired state.

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