Where use of behavioural economics goes wrong


There are three stages of using behavioural economics. In this video behavioural expert Bri Williams explains the one thing successful businesses do differently, how to move through each stage, and what to do at the critical juncture where you'll either succeed or fail.

We talk about different stages of grief and different stages of learning. Well in my experience, there are different stages of behavioural economics, too.

By the end of this video you’ll know the one thing businesses who use behavioural science successfully, do differently.

Because when it comes to using behavioural economics, there are three stages people go through, including one critical juncture which determines whether they’ll succeed or fail.

Stage 1: Oblivious

The first stage is being oblivious to behavioural economics. This is when people haven’t heard about behavioural science, Nudge Theory, or the science of influence more generally.

Through no fault of their own, they are ignorant about how decisions are actually made.

When it comes to getting people to take action - their customers or colleagues, for example, that means they are relying on outdated and erroneous assumptions.

For example, that money is all you need to motivate staff, or customers always want more choice.

And then when people don’t do what they expect them to, they either excuse it if they like them, or blame them for being stupid if they don’t.

All to dampen down that sense of frustration about not achieving what you want to achieve.

This was me 14 years ago, by the way! Doing my best with what I thought was true.

But then, something wonderful happened, and this is the pattern with other people too.

They come across behavioural economics. 

They might read a book, come across a YouTube channel like mine,  or watch a seminar.

Welcome to Stage 2.

Stage 2: Obvious

A funny thing happens once people are exposed to behavioural economics. It all seems so obvious!

That’s what so many clients have told me after watching one of my keynotes or reading one of my books.

It’s all so obvious.

Yes. It is.

Once it’s pointed out, it is obvious. 

This is the thrill - the unmasking, the unveiling, of human behaviour.

Like a fish who finally works out, they've been in water this whole time! Yesterday we were oblivious, today we think it obvious. It can’t be unseen.

For anyone helping others through this embrace of behavioural economics, which is what I do, you have a few key tasks.

To move them through Stage 1, your task is to disrupt their reliance on the flawed assumptions.  

Flawed assumptions like being better is enough, that you can rely on what customers tell you they want, and that telling people what to do will be enough to get them to do it.

To move them beyond Stage 2, away from “gee people are whacky” dinner party anecdotes, your task is to shift them from interest to action.

Because while things might seem obvious once they’re pointed out, they may not be so obvious when you are rushing out an email or speaking with a customer or designing your website.

Which brings us to the critical juncture I was talking about. Stage 3.

Stage 3. Interest to action

People’s embrace of behavioural economics can go one of two ways.

Path 1 is the easier, lazier path to take. 

It’s the path where nothing actually changes.

The sugar hit wears off and normal programming resumes.

And by normal programming, I mean your habitual behaviour.

You don’t change the way you write an email. The way you design a product or campaign. The way you communicate with colleagues. The way you yourself work and live.

Because, you see, the more difficult, the more courageous, but ultimately the more rewarding path to take is not one where nothing changes, but one where everything changes. 

Everything changes because you change.

You change what you do. You don’t just read about or watch clips about behavioural science, you take it and use it.

I mentioned there was one thing businesses who use behavioural science successfully do differently? It’s this. They use it.

That’s the critical juncture. The third stage where you can either take the path you’ve already trodden because it’s easy. It’s comfortable. But it’s also mediocre. It’s frustrating and it’s wasteful.

Your other path? That requires curiosity, and yes, a little courage to change. But more than that, it’s changing what you do.

I can help you with that.

Because when you change behaviour, you change your world.


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