One of the most popular ideas in the behavioural sciences at the moment is “nudging”. This is applying a light touch to encourage people towards certain actions. People often are a little unclear on what a nudge is. As such it is helpful to have a taxonomy of nudging.
What Is A Nudge?
What Then Is A Nudge?
“Rather than placing restrictions or changing economic incentives, nudges influence behaviour by changing the way choices are presented in the environment.” (Ly, Mazar, Zhao and Soman 2013).
When To Use A Nudge?
You may be encouraging the decision maker towards healthier choices. Other times you might want to promote pro-social options. A government might want to guide the public to more sustainable alternatives etc… The appeal is pretty obvious to governments. Indeed, the UK government has been particularly keen to investigate nudging. Nudges gives the hope of achieving social policy improvements without politically unpopular taxes or tricky to enforce bans. Similarly campaigning organizations may help achieve their goals with a better understanding of human behavior.
For commercial organizations to use nudges it requires a way of thinking. You might realize that small changes in the way options are presented can make a big difference to adoption. Of course nudges will never be everything. There are bad habits that we may have to take more aggressive actions against. Still, why not get the easy/cheap things done first with a nudge?
Taxonomy Of Nudging
Colleagues at the Rotman School, University of Toronto have created a taxonomy of nudging. They have published a guide with some great examples. This also shares points to think about when designing nudges. The authors classify nudges on a number of dimensions. These include, for instance, whether the nudge is encouraging (eating fruit) /discouraging (smoking) an action. Another classification is whether the nudges are externally or internally imposed.
Who can benefit from understanding nudging? Anyone in government, for one. Those working in a not for profit can find the idea useful. If you are working at a company in any role related to influence. Given the importance of nudging I’d wholeheartedly recommend their free book.
For moe on public policy see here.
Read:Kim Ly, Nina Mazar, Min Zhao and Dilip Soman, A Practitioner’s Guide to Nudging. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Available here