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  • 25th Mar 2024

Three opportunities for the future of behavioural science, and how you can use them to keep your organisation ahead of the curve.

We break down three of the 10 proposals in BIT’s ‘Manifesto for Applying Behavioural Science’ to highlight opportunities to harness the power of behavioural science to strengthen your organisation.

At BIT we work with business leaders and organisations to design better systems, policies, products and services. We have decades of experience solving business challenges globally and have developed a dedicated one-day UK based executive training in behavioural science for business leaders to bring our learning into your workplace. This blog is one of a series profiling the power and potential of behavioural science for business leadership.  

🔎Use behavioural science as a lens on your organisation’s challenges

Early application of behavioural insights was focussed on how specific aspects of a policy, product or service influenced discrete behaviours considered mostly in isolation. Some of the most famous examples include very small, high-impact changes like changing from “opt-in” to “opt-out” to increase the number of people signing up for organ donation. Whilst these approaches are strong and have produced compelling results, they have also meant people think of behavioural science as a kind of specialist tool. 

This view limits behavioural science to being a solution applied only to certain kinds of “behavioural” issues. Instead, we need to see behavioural science as a lens that can be applied to any public and private issue – discrimination, EDI, achieving ESG goals, healthcare, compliance, or economic mobility. 

For example: many companies face issues with low employee engagement and productivity, which can impact overall performance and profitability. Traditional approaches like increasing salaries or providing bonuses may not always be possible, and might not yield the desired results. Applying a behavioural lens to this challenge can help us see how intrinsic motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose play crucial roles in driving employee engagement. Viewing the challenge through this lens opens the possibility to design and implement strategies that target intrinsic motivation, such as flexible work hours, opportunities for skill development and advancement, and fostering a culture of appreciation and recognition.

Organisations should use behavioural insights as a ‘lens’ rather than a ‘tool’ to help reassess a situation or issue.  A behavioural diagnosis can yield more impactful, considered solutions. 

🔮Predict and adjust

Hindsight bias is what happens when people feel “I knew it all along”, even if they did not. For example, when a product fails in the market, employees might retrospectively think they should have seen it coming. Whilst seemingly harmless, hindsight bias is a big problem because it inhibits our ability to accurately understand and learn from the past, leading us to be overconfident in our future decisions. 

To counteract this bias and improve decision-making, companies should incorporate prediction into their processes. Prediction involves collecting estimates of the likelihood of future events, and then providing feedback about the accuracy of those predictions. Prediction with feedback can help us better calibrate our own decision-making by showing us when we are wrong, increasing our ability to better predict results in the future, and ultimately reducing the overconfidence that hindsight bias brings.

Consider how you might implement prediction into your organisational planning: systematically collect predictions from team members on outcomes and compare them against reality. Trigger surprise and reassessment among your team – rather than hindsight bias. 

Make prediction part of your standard organisational processes; give concrete prompts for learning and reflection, and share learning across your organisation.

🏗️Build behavioural science into the fabric of your organisation

BIT is regularly tasked with helping organisations use behavioural science to achieve their goals either through discrete projects, ongoing consultancy or even helping set up a behavioural science unit. However, we believe there should be greater focus on using behavioural science to shape organisations themselves, integrating behavioural science into an organisation’s standard processes. For example: as well as including a line in your budget for behavioural science initiatives, why not use behavioural science to improve the way your budgets are created? In addition to hiring a behavioural scientist for your team, why not use behavioural science to enhance your whole hiring process?

This approach can help develop new and better organisational processes, rules, incentives, metrics, and guidelines.

To  more deeply embed behavioural insights into your organisation, move from projects to process; from commissions to culture. 

Curious to Learn More?

Explore these opportunities further and gain practical insights into understanding customer and employee behaviour in our one-day executive programme in behavioural science for business leaders