A highlight of #teissLondon2018 was Evie Monnington-Taylor’s discussion of how the findings of behavioural economics (or “nudge theory”) can be used to change people’s behaviour.
How do we encourage people to follow the rules? There are sticks of course. And there are carrots. But sometimes sticks don’t work (think donkeys here!) and carrots are simply too expensive. So what do you do to change people’s behaviour?
Evie Monnington-Taylor gave a fascinating talk about how nudge theory can be used to push people along the path you want them to take. She started by describing the traditional levers that organisations use: rules and policies; training and information; and incentives (sticks and carrots).
However, she stressed that no behavioural lever will work if at the same time you put obstacles in the way of people behaving how you want them to behave. And conversely, if you make a particular behavioural pathway easy for people they are likely to take it:
A change to automatic enrolment in pensions has led to a significant rise in people taking up work pensions: people tend to stick with the status and so in this case, people had actively to opt out of pensions
Deaths from paracetamol poisoning fell sharply after the pills were put in bubble packs and sold in smaller quantities: people had to consider suicide for longer and make a greater commitment to it
Tax returns went up when an email directed people to the form rather than a web page on which they could find the form: this removed a small friction, making it easy for people to behave in the desired way
Ms Mornington-Taylor outlined some other ways that behaviour can be influenced. One powerful method is to “prove” that something is worth doing by showing that other people do it.
Marketers often use this technique for instance by saying how many people have bought a certain item. The tax office used the same technique when they included the sentence “Nine out of ten people pay their tax on time” in a letter.
Another commonly used technique is to tell a human story. Just as marketers show the happy consequences of buying a certain product, so the Police frequently use information about deaths and injuries to reduce speeding.
There are of course many nudge techniques. And this fascinating and entertaining presentation gave us an illuminating glimpse of the power of nudge. Very much something for CISOs to add to their toolbox.
Jeremy Swinfen Green MA MBA is Head of Consulting at teiss. He has spent over 25 years advising organisations about digital technology and “human factors”, how people interact with technology. He has degrees from the University of Oxford and City University. He is the author of: "Cyber security: an introduction for non-technical managers" (Gower, 2015); "The weakest link" Bloomsbury, 2016) and "Digital Governance" (Routledge, 2020).
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