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The Best of Behavioural Science: Our Experience from Two Conferences

26.07.2022

From June 6-10, members of HRW Shift, our in-house behavioural science consultancy team attended not just one, but two behavioural science conferences to see what exciting research is happening throughout the world in different industries.

 

UN Behavioural Science Week

United Nations’ (UN) Behavioural Science week was first on the agenda, which covered the applied behavioural science research that 18 UN entities worldwide conducted, with insights from both developing countries and developed countries. Topics such as climate, health, peace, security, finance, women’s empowerment, and organization management were discussed. Out of the 20 webinars we attended, a few fascinating ones truly resonated; UNICEF’s work around using behavioural science to improve health outcomes in Ghana and Georgia, adopting digital currencies in Peru and How projects and ideas Scale with Professor John List (UChicago Professor and a pioneer of conducting field experiments in economics).

A really intriguing one which we learned about was around using behavioural science to understand the triggers and barriers for adopting digital currencies in Peru. The researchers used a behaviour change model (one of our favourites, COM-B) to understand the key barriers which make it difficult for more widespread adoption of digital currencies in Peru. The researchers identified that the major barrier was the Logistical Frictions involved with digital currencies: cash is still the standard in Peru, where most people are paid in cash and not all vendors accept cash, which makes it unfeasible to switch to digital payments. Therefore, any intervention will need to tackle this broader challenge before behaviour change is possible on a large-scale.

HRW Shift, really appreciated how the COM-B model was used for this problem because we are big advocates for and users of the COM-B model, routinely using it to analyse behaviour change problems in our work in the healthcare space. It was interesting to see the model being applied in the financial technology space, and even more fascinating to see how behavioural science is being applied in South America – a change of scenery from the WEIRD (western educated, Industrialized, rich, democratic) countries we typically see behavioural science being utilized.

 

Nudgestock 2022

The second event we attended was Nudgestock 2022, the 10th edition of Ogilvy’s popular annual applied behavioural science festival. This year’s event featured a star-studded list of behavioural science thought-leaders, including big names such as Katy Milkman (UPenn Professor and author of How to Change), Dan Pink (author of ‘Drive: The science of motivation’ and The Power of Regret), Eric Johnson (Columbia Professor well-known for expertise in consumer decision-making), Changing Jang (CEO of Busara Center of Behavioural Economics), Maya Shankar (Director of Behavioural Science at Google and founder of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team in the White House under Obama), and Rory Sutherland (Head of Behavioural Science at Ogilvy).

The 8-hour festival had a lot of topics that were discussed, ranging from saving lives from land-mines using behavioural science, reducing polarization, shopping environment design, nudging vaccinations using text messages (which we had written a blog about here), and electric vehicle adoption.

One of the key themes from the event this year was that the networking took place in the Metaverse (a virtual world where people can interact via avatars). Ogilvy developed a room for festival attendees to experience Nudgestock from the Metaverse and did an amazing job designing this space. This was a key highlight that the HRW Shift team really enjoyed playing around with. You can see below Shift members Alexandra Petrache, Behavioural Science Analyst, Katy Irving, Global Head of Behavioural Science, and Tony Jiang, Behavioural Science Analyst, interacting (chatting, clapping, and dancing) in the Metaverse.

 

 

Overall, we had a great experience at these festivals, and it gave us a fantastic perspective of some of the great ways behavioural science is being applied to tackle problems around the world. Many of the speakers placed an emphasis on how methods from behavioural science were valuable in not just understanding problems with greater accurately, but also developing solutions. This perspective resonated with us deeply, as it is precisely why HRW Shift have such a strong belief in the potential of behavioural science, and why we enjoy bringing it to our clients’ challenges. To quote Rory Sutherland from this past Nudgestock, “Not everything is behavioural science, but behavioural science is in everything.”

 

By Tony Jiang

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