How nudging-as-creative-destruction can steer openness and creativity in addressing complex challenges

16 July 2020

5-minute read for change-makers and problem-solvers

The challenges we face today require radical openness and creativity.

The ‘new normal’ is pushing human boundaries of resilience and adaptability amidst a public health crisis that has amplified underlying systemic inequities and injustices. Ahead of us is a suite of complex challenges, be it at the global scale (e.g. impending economic recession, global climate change, or biodiversity and ecosystems collapse) or the local, personal scale (e.g. health risk management, adapting to the ‘new normal,’ or organizational management).

During this time, we need to use all the tools, expertise and perspectives available to understand the challenges we face today. We must combine micro and macro approaches from multiple disciplines, and fundamentally acknowledge and critically engage the complexities of the challenges we face.

At Behaviorale, we highlight and engage a particular perspective: human behavior as it relates to broader social and economic decision-making processes.

We leverage the latest insights from behavioral economics, a rapidly expanding field which infuses perspectives from psychology and economics, exploring how humans make choices and judgments at the individual, organizational, or institutional level. We posit that we often overlook or undervalue the behavioral aspect when we diagnose problems or devise solutions, such as during the coronavirus lockdown.

"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and economist, recipient of 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work on Prospect Theory -- and the psychology of judgment and decision-making -- together with Amos Tversky. Photo by Mukul Joshi on Unsplash

Behaviorale is a mission-driven think-and-do tank harnessing breakthroughs in behavioral economics to serve communities in the global south, improve people's lives, and protect the planet. In a nutshell, we are interested in soft touches in policy or interventions rather than heavy-handed and draconian measures.1

Our in-house LEAP Model is built around a scientific methodology in behavioral economics that is “predicated on experimental and survey-based techniques.”2 It is a four-step model aimed at designing bespoke nudge interventions, evaluating their impact, and scaling up solutions based on an empirical and scientific approach. In their innovative and pioneering work, Thaler and Sustein describe nudges as “any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.3

As we introduce novel behavioral solutions and nudges, we hope to steer openness, innovation, and creativity to explore alternative interventions, both at public and private business spheres. We aspire to describe this as a type of “creative destruction,” a term originally coined by Austrian political economist Joseph Schumpeter, which is now broadly used to describe the destruction of old ideas, processes, and systems, and replacing them with new ways of doing4.

Examining similarities between nudges and 'practice theories' (which seeks to explain human activity through historical analysis), Reid and Ellsworth-Krebs (2009) posit that "considering nudging via the related lenses of practice and materiality, and viewing nudging as a practice in and of itself, could bring greater attention to these complexities"5.

Rather than simplifying problems or solutions, our ultimate goal is to induce broader critical interrogation of the historical as well as sociopolitical complexities of the problems we seek to address: “why the problem exists, how it got there, and how it has changed or evolved over time.”6

1 Dolan, P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D., King, D., Vlaev, I., 2010. Mindspace: Influencing Behaviour through Public Policy. The Institute for Government and Cabinet Office, London. 2, 5, 6 Reid, L. & Ellsworth-Krebs, K., 2019. Nudge(ography) and practice theories: Contemporary sites of behavioural science and post-structuralist approaches in geography? Progress in Human Geography, 43(2), pp.295–313. 4 Schumpeter, J.A., 1994. Capitalism, socialism, and democracy. London; New York: Routledge. 3, Thaler, R. & Sustein, C., 2008. Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. London: Penguin Books.