Taking the cue from 'a little less conversation' - what's your favourite example of behavioural economics in practice today?
This should be a very easy question for me to answer but it isn't. My great hope for behavioural science is that it allows psychologists, marketers and creative people to increase the range and scope of the problems for which they are allowed to find solutions - so I am delighted not so much by any one example of behavioural thinking, but by the extraordinary diversity of its application. This 'scope' expands in two dimensions. First of all in breadth: we have recently been briefed with reducing the risk of contamination in a Chilean food factory and training the staff of a call centre in behavioural nudges (thereby increasing conversion by 200%); neither of these briefs would previously have found their way into an agency. But then there is also depth. The beauty of this approach is that it is immensely scalable. I have recently seen a beautiful technological idea from our Dubai agency which discourages drivers from tail-gating, and an idea which allows children or grandchildren discreetly to check on the welfare of elderly relatives. These small things - like the flies etched on to urinals - are very good, focused ideas which solve a specific problem. Equally there is some recent work by Gerd Gigerenzer on defensive decision-making which has immensely widespread implications for anyone in the private or public sector - and especially for medicine and healthcare.
'It's better to be brave than good' - can this advice be applied to business?
A huge amount of effort in business is now dedicated to optimising things: a problem then arises when lots of businesses in the same sector all optimise the same damned things. The result is that competing companies rapidly become more or less indistinguishable from each other - and are hence effectively commoditised. There is a recognised problem with 'wind-tunnel marketing' - see Jim Carroll of BBH here - but we are in danger of creating wind-tunnel businesses.
- 'What are the assumptions surrounding this problem?'
- 'Which of these damned assumptions is false, and is hence making the problem needlessly difficult to solve?'
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