Nudging – A Friendly Push In The Right Direction W/christina Gravert
Nexum bi-weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in change management
By Morten Kamp Andersen
Nexum bi-weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in change management
By Morten Kamp Andersen
People make most of their decisions automatically. We make them fast and without being aware of them. About 80% of them, actually. In this episode, you will learn how to use nudging to help you make those decisions better.
As humans, we don’t always make the best automatic decisions. In fact, we often make a decision that our better self doesn’t like. We don't get up early in the morning to exercise; we eat the cookies instead of the apples; we use email instead of Teams. You get the picture.
Cristina Gravert is a professor and expert in nudging. In this episode, I will talk with Christina about how we can use nudging in our personal and professional life. And of course, she will give us tools, tricks and insights on how to do it with lots of concrete examples.
Here are my key takeaways from the podcast. But there are more goodies in the episode itself, so hopefully, you will listen to it.
Designing our environment - or plainly just making it easier to make the right decisions or harder to continue to do what we don’t want - is such an obvious help. And it works. The many examples Christina provides in the episode highlight that. If you want to eat healthier, make unhealthy food less accessible. You can remove it from your sight or place it on the top shelf, so it is more difficult for you to reach. And yes, it has been researched - it really does work.
Another essential factor is timing. You need to be very clear about when it is that you make those wrong decisions and target that with a nudge. If your need for sugar primarily appears in the afternoon at the office, then it is no use hiding the cookies in your kitchen at home. Reminders and nudges need to come at the right time for it to have any effect.
Reducing the number of choices can make us do the right thing. We spend mental energy every time we make a decision. If we are not careful, we will let our automatic selves make the wrong decision. That is why fewer choices are good for us. If I get up early in the morning, and I decided the day before what my exercises should be, that will increase the likelihood of it happening. I don’t need to think about it in the morning when I am more inclined to go back to bed.
If you want to know more about nudging or my guest, Christina Gravert, you can follow the links below.
I love feedback. If you liked what you’ve heard, please leave a review or comment. Whatever you have on your mind, I want to hear it.
Morten Andersen, Christina Gravert
Morten Andersen 00:05
Hello, and welcome to What Monkeys Do. My name is Morten Kamp Andersen. And this is a podcast about what it takes to make a change and make it stick. In What Monkeys Do, we explore what it takes to make a change. To make a change means that we must repeat the right behavior again and again. And to do that, we must keep making the right decisions again and again. And that's actually hard. So when I buy my groceries, I must remember every time to pick the low fat options, rather than the juicy but fattier options. And that's a decision that I must take every time. To help us make better decisions in those moments we can use nudging. Nudging is a concept which essentially tries us to help us make those right decisions by designing the environment to influence us to do what we're set out to do. Exactly what that means and how we can use it for ourselves, but also at work, I've invited an expert in nudging Christina Gravert in here to help us understand what nudging is much better. Christina is a professor in economics in Denmark. She's a PhD in economics as well. She is the co-founder of a consultancy company Impactually. She's a frequent public speaker on nudging. Welcome, Christina,
Christina Gravert 01:26
Thank you very much for the invitation.
Morten Andersen 01:28
So in your public profile, you say that you are a behavioral economist. What is that?
Christina Gravert 01:33
Yes. So some people might say there's a difference between behavioral economics and behavioral science. So behavioral economics is really economists who have a classic economics training. we're integrating insights from psychology into economic models. So questions that I think about a lot are, how do we design public policies and how can we increase welfare of society, versus maybe some other behavioral scientists might think more about working in marketing or working in product development, so that's a little bit different on what our end goal is for using these behavioral sciences.
Morten Andersen 02:09
Okay. And you work a lot with nudging. That's what you are an expert in. What is nudging?
Christina Gravert 02:14
Nudging is one of the policy tools. So we know that we have rules and regulations, we have economic incentives such as taxes or subsidies. And then we usually have information, some communication, warning signs. And nudging is really the fourth category. It's everything else that influences our behavior. But that doesn't really fall into any of these categories. So it's about things that change our behavior in our everyday life. But without taking away any options or adding any options to it, without changing the monetary incentives, or without giving any new information that we didn't already have.
Morten Andersen 02:48
So essentially, it is trying to help us make decisions without changing content or incentives or wording and things like that. Is that correct?
Christina Gravert 02:58
Well, we could change words. But it's all these things that matter, even though they shouldn't matter to the rational human being. So if we think about this, homo economicus, this person who gets up in the morning and goes through their day doing exactly what they had planned, then nudges really shouldn't matter, because then if I want to buy a particular product, if I want to go to the store and buy the lean option, then that's what I'm going to do. Because I've rationally decided this is best for me today and in the future, but nudging all these things that influence our behavior, and in a way that can make use of our biases or even counteract our biases. We could think about it also in a way of saying, well, maybe if I'm a little bit inattentive than a nudge can help me be attentive again to a particular situation. So I often describe nudging as a countermeasure to these little mistakes that we make going about our day.
Morten Andersen 03:51
Okay. You mentioned biases, and understand that's a big concept within notching. What is biases.
Christina Gravert 03:57
So biases are everything that, we could say, gets us off track. So that could be inattention, cognitive load, so having too many things going on at the same time, social norms, seeing what other people do, right? Sometimes we get into an elevator and turn the wrong way around because the other person standing there is already facing to the back of the elevator, then we didn't consciously make that decision. But we were influenced by what others around us are doing.
Morten Andersen 04:22
The way I understand it is that essentially, we make a lot of decisions all the time. I've heard you say that we make about 35,000 decisions every day. A lot of those decisions are not the ones that are actually best for us. We intend to do something but we don't really follow through or we make a decision which is really in not in our best interest to help us make those decisions or make them better, nudging can overcome some of those biases that stand in our way of rational decisions. Is that correct?
Christina Gravert 04:51
Exactly. And that's a very good point that in order to use nudging in an efficient way, we want to help people, get back on track, do the things that are best for them. Not trying to get them to do something that they don't want to do. It's really about being careful about what would be doing, under the best circumstances, if we were well rested, well fed in a good mood really having lots of time to think about it. What would be doing then? And how can nudging help us if maybe we're a little bit tired or a bit hungry, or a bit stressed? What do we then?
Morten Andersen 05:22
Yes. Can you give some examples of nudging and what that is and how that worked in those particular situations.
Christina Gravert 05:28
A very simple thing, this comes from Google for example, would be; you want your employees to have access maybe to snacks in the afternoon, but you don't want them to over consume the cookies and the soda. So one thing they did there was to put the cookies into an opaque glass with a lid on it so that you wouldn't see them they wouldn't be so tempting. Or have a fridge door that doesn't show you what's inside. You can still get yourself a coke in the afternoon or get a chocolate cookie, but it doesn't look at you while you're passing the kitchen. Trying not to eat a cookie. So then the next would be adding friction to the situation, you have to take the lid off the bucket and you're also not paying as much attention to the coke that's staring at you or the delicious candy that's in the kitchen.
Morten Andersen 06:13
Okay, introducing friction or make it a little bit harder to make a particular decision is one way of nudging. Is that correct?
Christina Gravert 06:21
Exactly. But you could also think about it the other way around. And that might be a bit more advanced nudge. Let's say one of the most famous examples is the Safe More Tomorrow Program. So there, the idea was to say, Well, a lot of people want to save for retirement, but not today. So I want to save tomorrow because today I need my money for other things. And then they use this bias, which we call present bias that I overvalue that present situation to err compared to the future by saying okay, you don't want to save today. But what about next time you get a raise? Can we then just deduct some of that money and put it into your pension account. And then this was designed in automatic way. So every time these people got a raise, they would then also save some additional money without it hurting this present situation. And without them feeling the loss of not having the money right now, which is another bias, which we call loss aversion.
Morten Andersen 07:11
So they did get their raise, but they didn't get as much as they otherwise would, because some of it went to the savings. Is that how it was?
Christina Gravert 07:19
Exactly. So if you would have gotten a 10%, raise 5% goes into pension account, 5% goes into your account. Other types of situations, one of my own studies, we wanted to get more people to eat vegetarian food at a restaurant, we're working with a restaurant who was interested in sustainability. And there we actually just changed the menu order and put the vegetarian food on top and the meat on the bottom. So this was a daily dishes. So you could either choose between meat or vegetarian. And just by switching this around, we found that we decrease the meat consumption by about half. People could still order the meat option. It wasn't difficult either. You just needed to read the second line on the menu, but in a stressful situation, maybe you're at a business lunch, you're talking to others. You look at the first thing on the menu, it sounds good enough. And then that's what you order. And if that's meat, you're going to order meat. If it's vegetarian, you're going to order vegetarian.
Morten Andersen 08:10
Yes. And I guess marketing has known part of this for some time. So for instance, if you have three choices of cups of coffee, you always pick the middle one. And restaurants also add in a very expensive bottle of wine, even though nobody buys it. They know that people will go further down the list of wines, if there are some very expensive ones, because they want to choose the middle ones. When I hear some of these examples, they seem very intuitive. But then there are other ones which are not so intuitive, where it actually requires some understanding of how human behavior is. Can you think of examples where you've been surprised about the nudge and how it worked?
Christina Gravert 08:50
I think more often than not, we are maybe surprised that things don't work. So if we really look at the literature, we see that yes, there are quite a lot of studies where it has worked. We've gotten big effect, for example, telling people that other people are paying their taxes on time makes more people pay their tax on time afterwards, which you could think shouldn't really matter if other people in my country pay their tax on time. But here we see that the social norms, this feeling of belonging to a group had quite a strong effect on paying your taxes, which is quite a lot of money and something that you should also be doing anyway. So here, it might be more surprising that it did work. But then similar types of experiments have been replicated in other situations and there we might have found no effect because there people might not care that other people do this or don't do this or they don't feel part of the group.
Morten Andersen 09:48
So they may not be replicable. So what works in one setting may actually not work in another setting.
Christina Gravert 09:53
Now Exactly. So every time that I work with practitioners when I do consulting work, but also of course in my research work, It's always about running experiments. And you're going to hear behavioral scientists say this again and again. The context is what matters so much in nudging and the context will change. Of course, we can have a good hypothesis, we're not completely stabbing in the dark here. But in order to know what works, and by what extended works, we need to run a randomized control trial, a test and experiment and A B test, as companies would call it, to make sure that it really also works in this situation.
Morten Andersen 10:28
I think that's very reassuring, actually, that you just don't assume that everything would work everywhere. Our local school where my children goes, they had a team of behavioral economics and nudging experts in to help them with a situation in the mornings; how kids were dropped off in the mornings. Some of the emails that we got from school, they said, eight out of 10 have already done this and so on, and I could see how they used some of those visible nudges in the communication with us afterwards.
Christina Gravert 10:55
We do see that sometimes. But here the question really is; is that what parents care about or is it that there maybe just running late in the morning, and it doesn't matter that 9 out of 10 other parents show up at the right time if they can't do this, and are even that many parents showing up, so he says 9 out of 10 number then even true, that's another thing when working with nudging, right, especially social norms, they need to be true, and they need to be a little bit higher than what you were expecting. If you already think that 9 out of 10 parents show up on time, then the nudge is not going to do anything. If you think that 7 out of 10 parents show up on time, then maybe it might have an effect.
Morten Andersen 11:31
And that's also one of the interesting thing is that many of the popular things that we sometimes watch on YouTube do not always have a lasting effect. And actually, in one of your recent articles, you highlight how some of the sort of gimmicks may not have a lasting effect. The example that you bring up is the Swedish piano stairs. It is done in Stockholm, I think has been watched many, many thousands of times on YouTube, where basically there was a set of stairs and an automatic staircase next to each other. And the nudge was to try to get people to take the healthier stairs. And they made it into a piano staircase. So whenever you walked on a new stair, then there was a noise coming out. And obviously people thought that was fun. And they started to use that. But then, after some time, the novelty factor wore off, and it didn't have a lasting effect. Can you tell us a little bit about a nudge that helps on the long term? What kind of characteristics it has?
Christina Gravert 12:29
Exactly. I think this is a very good point. Often the more famous nudges are the ones that are fun. So this idea of fun theory, making things fun, motivating people, maybe also creating fear. We've seen this during corona times saying, Okay, if we scare people into doing something, they're going to change behavior. But these are very short lasting nudges because, by definition, emotions and attention are things that are temporary. So if we want to keep up this level of attention and emotion, we'll have to redo the nudge every single day, and have to do it in stronger and stronger ways. Which can, especially from a public policy perspective, be very problematic. But also from a company if you want to shame people for not eating the cookies, that can work, but it's maybe not a pleasant work environment. So what we want to do is we want to think about which nudges are so built into the choice environment that I don't need to think about it all the time. They don't need to trigger these emotions. Let's say I'm getting to the office in the morning, I'm still quite tired. I didn't have my first coffee yet. I don't want to think about saving the rainforest when I get my first coffee. But if the reusable cups are right next to the coffee machine, and the paper cups are further away, I'm going to grab a reusable cup, not because I'm such a great human, and I've been thinking about saving the environment, but because it was just an easier thing to do without thinking about it.
Morten Andersen 13:53
And in that situation, why don't Starbucks just only have reusable cup? Why even make it a choice? When what are they really trying to do is they want to try to encourage their users to use a particular cup, then you're creating so much friction by putting it so far away that you might as well just not call it nudging and just give them one option. Sometimes I wonder why not just banning something that you don't want to have? So in your restaurant, for instance, where you want to have more vegetarian orders, why not only have vegetarian menu, for instance?
Christina Gravert 14:25
Again, a very good question anything here, the economist and me then really comes through because economists generally assume people have different preferences and we should allow people to do what they want. If I really have a good reason for using a throw away-cup, then I should be able to purchase that somewhere and you could go even further and say, well, the market is going to provide me with a throwaway cup option, there will be some if it's not Starbucks and Espresso House will sell me a cup that I can throw away. That's also the question if we want to maximize people's welfare, we should say many different options should be available. But the idea was nudging is that if people don't have strong preferences, if I just sit in my office, I can very well drink out of a reusable cup and not the throwaway one. So then I should be using the one that's good for the environment versus the other way around. And same in the restaurant example, if somebody loves meat, and they can think of nothing better than eating a nice steak every day. Who am I to say that they can't do that. But if somebody is, in economic terms, we say indifferent - if it's nice food, they don't care much either way, if it's a veggie burger, or if it's a meat burger, well, then it's maybe better to try to nudge them towards the vegetarian burger.
Morten Andersen 15:38
Hmm. That's a good example, in which situations are nudging very useful, and in which situations is it actually not very useful. So some of the examples I've heard you talk about has been, for instance, going to the court after you've received a letter from the federal government saying that you need to stand up for court. Many people don't show up because they don't understand the form and nudging or redesigning the form can help people actually show up, paying taxes the way that you phrase that 7 out of 10 have paid their taxes already or something can help people pay taxes. So those are some very useful examples of where it actually makes sense to help people make the right decisions. Also the pension from Richard Thaler of course. Are there any cases where you found that in that particular part of people's lives or that particular part of public life, it really doesn't work?
Christina Gravert 16:28
So I would say it's less about particular areas of life. It's more about your preferences. So in the court example, if you get a letter that you're supposed to show up for court, otherwise, you're going to get fine, then most people do want to show up for court. And the problem is here that they didn't understand that they were supposed to show up at this time where they're supposed to answer. I have an example moving from Sweden to Denmark in one of the countries you have to, when you get your your tax return done, you have to send a text message and say, Yes, thank you. I've seen the letter. In the other country, you don't do this. So yeah, I think in Sweden, it's the country where you have to actually send this text message back, which is not the case in Denmark. So having moved from Denmark to Sweden, I got a huge fine that summer, the first summer in Sweden, because I assumed that it was the same as in Denmark. And it wouldn't need to send this text message even though it was clearly stated on the forum somewhere in that very long text. So there an additional nudge telling me that I should have replied by text message saying yes, I've seen this letter would have been very helpful. But when we talk about the preferences, it's more of a question. In some cases, let's say for example, voting. I don't think nudging is appropriate to get people to vote for one candidate or the other, because this is about who they care about. And that would also probably border to manipulation. But I do think nudging is a good thing to get people to go to vote. So getting them to the voting office, getting them to register on time, to get their mail ballot, that is where nudging can be very helpful, but not so much in trying to change their preferences. So nothing works in all situations and are absolutely bests in situations where people don't care much either way, the best studies we've seen from nudges working are, for example, switching from gray to green energy. Most people prefer green energy. And if that's what the default is, if that's what they're signed up, when they move into new apartment, they will stick with that, if it's gray energy, they don't usually care enough to go through the whole trouble of changing their subscription, then they stay with that. If Now, one of the companies would just switch them to the other energy, we've seen that 99% of people will just stick with a different option, because the price difference is very small. And most people do kind of prefer the green energy but not really enough to change this. In case maybe more of the meat vegetarian. Some people might have very strong preferences for one or the other. Or even more political questions like abortions or those things that's where nothing is not appropriate because people have very polarized opinions and then nudging cannot work.
Morten Andersen 18:56
I guess there are some areas where it definitely should not be used because it is not in the person's interest. And then there are some areas where it is incredibly appropriate because people really want to change behavior, and therefore it is appropriate. And then there is something in the middle, I think, where it is a little bit difficult to understand whether it is manipulation or whether it is actually in the best person's interest. So, some companies might take an interest in the health of their employees, they may want to make sure that people eat the right food and exercise enough and things that are really a little bit outside of the company's so to speak, area of control, or maybe also some was a area of interest, but they still use nudging in a way to change people's behavior many times when they're not aware of it. And I guess that's sort of an area where you need to think about is this appropriate for me to use nudging in this particular case because we know it can be so effective and people don't even know about it. They don't know that they have made it a different choice. And somebody else made that choice for them, I suppose
Christina Gravert 20:04
I think nudging, especially when companies do it works best when the idea is aligned with employees. So I don't think nudging in any way needs to be secret. I think if the HR department would say, look, we're creating this new program that we're going to default you into this pension plan. If you don't want to have it, you can opt out of it. But this is how we're going to go. And then maybe also do survey, ask people is that what they would prefer their future selves to do? And then 80% of the employee says, Yes, we think it's great. The rest of the 20% can opt out. I think that's a perfect way to go. So I think if people are afraid that something could be perceived as manipulation, then you shouldn't do it. Because if you're in that area where you think people might get mad, and I'm not saying that one mother at the school of 5000 children that dislikes everything, then that's maybe a special case, but if you could say that the majority will stand behind this and a majority thinks is a good idea. So I think all the nudge units also in the world usually write reports. So the behavior Insights Team in the UK, but also a lot of consulting work I do. After we've run the experiment, we're going to write a report and say, this is what we've done. And these are the changes that are going to be made. And I think that really protects you a lot from not doing things that can lead to problems that where people feel that they're being manipulated.
Morten Andersen 21:21
Yes. Especially the opt in/opt out, which is so effective in many ways, if people are not aware of that is what's happening, and they feel that something has happened behind their back so to speak, they might feel that they have not been part of the decisions. But if it's been, you know, very transparent, and if you say as the HR department saying, we're doing this, and we're doing it for this reason, and I hope you'll be part of this, then I think that's a very fair way of doing it.
Christina Gravert 21:47
And many nudges are also visible if you put their footsteps on the stairs to promote that or, I mean, there's been these cases where people have made the elevator bit slower so that people will take the stairs. Yeah, this could maybe lead to Anger for a few people, though some more of maybe open experiments and standard work pretty well. And you really can't take the stairs, it doesn't matter that the elevator doors closed five seconds slower. So there is of course always a gray zone. But I think the more open one is, I think the more this also will be accepted among employees.
Morten Andersen 22:26
So you have been part of the sort of nudging community for many years now and be it was formed many years ago, of course, and they have really shown a lot of progress. How do you think the take up of nudging has been? How do you think companies are taking nudging and using that is that faster than you expected? or slower than you had hoped? Or how do you think that is going?
Christina Gravert 22:48
I think it's getting a lot of press, a lot of interest. So people are talking about it. The media knows about it in different countries. Of course there's different levels coming from Germany, there's much less going on than when I lived here in Denmark or in Sweden, in Sweden, for example, it's very much sustainability tool. But in the UK or maybe in the US, it's more of as a savings financial instruments so that in those realms, it's more important and more countries, it's about health. I always think it's more interesting, how much is the public sector taking up nudging. Because as you said earlier, companies, they know a lot about how to get people to change behavior. They've been doing marketing forever. So also as an economist is sometimes quite funny, actually, that so many companies are interested in nudging now because nudging is more the translation of what companies already know, but to public policymaking. So saying, Well, why is the government assuming that everybody's perfectly rational and all knowing? Well, companies have known this for years that this is not the case. So it is more of this going back and forth. And I think some things companies aren't doing they've been doing before. Now they might call it nudging but it's very similar to what they've been previously doing also in their marketing departments or product design. Well, what's interesting is really how much of the government's doing it? And yes, there is some process, but it's still, I think the question is, how do we do it in the right place. So the UK Government now try to use nudging during the lockdown during this been pandemic, there's been some discussions whether that was a good choice or bad choice, I think it was really bad choice because that's not the place where this should be. As I said before, nudging is not about protecting people who really want to go outside and don't understand the risks. So here we need stronger policy instruments, we need to tell people that they need to stay at home, this is not about nudging people to stay at home. But then in other areas, simplifying forms, and maybe getting people to think about their retirement in different ways or eating healthier. I think there's a lot of potential for nudging, which has not been used yet.
Morten Andersen 24:49
I would like to try to get very concrete in terms of how I can use nudging myself to make a change for instance. So let's just take a very simple example. I have a morning routine. I do some exercise and Mindfulness and stretches each morning, it takes about 45 minutes. I love when I've done it. I feel really happy when I've done it. But it means that I have to get up 45 minutes earlier each day. And some days I do it and I feel really good about it. Other days, It's really, really hard. I press the snooze button, I lay in for another 45 minutes. So it's a morning routine. I know what to do. It's actually just getting up and doing it. But I find myself not doing it often enough. How can I use nudging in that particular case?
Christina Gravert 25:29
So first, I would recommend you to think about where are the bottlenecks where's that tough situation and it sounded like you said you pressed the snooze button. So then one thing one could do is, well, plug in the phone in a different room or the alarm put it further away from the bed right but then you're already out of bed and then there is some friction to get back into bed and you're going to feel a bit worse about it. Then if you just turn around and press the button right so here it's about making it harder to just press the snooze button. So then you already out of it and then with other things you might think about it in the same way, right? If you already have some healthy breakfast prepared in the evening, have already cut the bananas in small pieces and frozen them to put them into smoothie, it's going to be easier. And you also don't have to make as many choices. I think often we also create frictions by deciding in that moment, should I go for a run today? Or should I do my other workout? Or should I read this book, or maybe I should listen to a podcast. And I think the less of these choices you have to make in the morning, the easier it will be to also follow suit with them.
Morten Andersen 26:31
The last point is really interesting, because we assume that the more choices we have, the happier we'll be, the better choices we'll make and everything else and it's actually the other way around. The fewer options we have, the more likely it is that we will choose something and we'll be happy about it afterwards.
Christina Gravert 26:48
I completely agree. I became a vegan a couple of years ago and lots of other reasons for that. But one actual thing I appreciate is you go to a restaurant and there's one or two things to choose from and then you're happy with that. You're happy that they had any option at all. So I think that has increased my utility a lot.
Morten Andersen 27:04
So in order to help me sort of use nudging for my morning routine, one thing is to actually create more friction for getting back into bed by moving my alarm clock, because once I'm up, at that point, I might decide, well, I'm up anyway. So I might as well continue to do my exercises, maybe also make less choices. So the day before, I decide I'm going to go for a run, I'm not going to get up and then decide what to do. So therefore making it more easy to make good decisions, and then maybe even prepare some of the breakfast. Those are some really concrete and very good things. And what is also interesting about them is that it's actually small things that we're talking about, we're not talking about building a new park to my flat or anything like that. We're really talking about moving the alarm clock, maybe 10 meters away from from my bed.
Christina Gravert 27:51
Exactly. I think the best nudges are not the flashy ones. As we said before, it's not the nice YouTube video. The really cool creative ideas. A nudge works really well, if it just bridges that small barrier, that small bias that you have in a particular situation. But the better you understand where these biases are, or where you have these problems with friction, the better you can then design mentors that overcome these.
Morten Andersen 28:16
And I can also see how for a friend of mine, he might need to do some other things that would create friction from him or remove away barriers, because he might have no problem going back to bed after having gone up and shut off the alarm clock. So what works for one person may not work for the other person, as you said before?
Christina Gravert 28:33
No, exactly. Or some people live in an apartment building and jumping on a gym mat is never a good idea early in the morning. So sometimes you see that there's these types of barriers there, which people might not recognize. So we also have this online course where we teach people of how to really identify the barriers and that is such an important part of designing the right nudge because you can just take some numbers that you've seen in a book and then apply that to a situation if that doesn't fit into the right barrier that you have.
Morten Andersen 29:01
I just want to take another example just to try to understand notching in a very concrete way. Let's take an example at work, for instance, if we are team, and we want to change how we work. So for instance, at our work, we've just implemented office 365, we now have to work in Microsoft Teams. Whenever we communicated with each other, we were doing that through emails, and we've been using emails for many, many years. It's really an ingrained work way of of how we work. And now we have to communicate to each other through Teams. So a different communication channel different way of thinking about communication in a way as well. How can we use nudging as a way to implement this new world, change our behavior, the way we communicate with each other?
Christina Gravert 29:41
I think here, the first question would be, is it that people don't understand how to use Teams? Or is it that they understand everything about it, and then don't think about using it or don't feel like using it? Because for that, you might need very different things. And I think this is the only case where fun nudges can actually make sense. I saw a very nice example from a company once who had a new intranet. And they made this little scavenger hunt for people to get excited and get into this intranet and start trying out all the functions. But you can't do this forever. You can only do this for a short time. And then everybody had put in their information and had understood how it works. So there I think some gamification or something, as a startup point can be very useful. But then if we assume that everybody knows how to use it, and also especially now after the lockdown people are better at using these digital devices, then you would have to think about where in the process am I starting to maybe go to my email. So if I sit down in the morning and the emails The first thing I put on, so that's the first thing I think about, so you might think about Can I put myself some reminder, some information at that flow of what I would be doing usually. So I have an example from my brother who was a chemist in a chemistry lab. People would never put back the ingredients they used and not clean up and then they always had the signs at the washbasin saying, Please clean up after yourself. But if nobody cleans up, they never make it there. So they go back to the closet and they get new ingredients. So then what they change is making a little sticker on the closet with ingredients and saying, Have you cleaned up what you've taken before? So you should think about in which process are you using these communication things and put the nudge at the right point of time or at the right placement, to then break this flow and say, Are you sure this is what you want? Maybe you want to open Teams.
Morten Andersen 31:31
So if I was working in an HR department and I wanted to help a group of people with that change, what I should do first is I should try to understand where the friction is, or where what kind of behaviors are standing in the way to create nudges at that point. So is it just when they get in and log on? Or is it when they are further down and have to write a communication or or something like that?
Christina Gravert 31:54
Exactly. So nudging is so much about getting the right timing because you want to overcome that bias at that time. moment where it's happening. So also, I think often HR departments or other people working in communication at companies will send lots of emails with information and with guidelines. But if this doesn't happen at the point of time where I need this information, it's already forgotten or deleted or in some folder where I'm not going to look at it. So can you create some prompt on the computer that in some way affect my decision making at that point of time, same with sending emails is something I think about a lot, when I send an email is that the point of time when I think it's convenient, or when the other person can actually act on what I'm sending them. So sending emails just before I go home might feel good to me. But it's not very useful because the other person will have this in their inbox The next morning, together with 20 other emails or Teams messages.
Morten Andersen 32:46
So the design of the notching is obviously important, but also the timing is crucial. It sounds like in order for you to be effective.
Christina Gravert 32:53
Exactly. So that's what I'm doing a lot of research aren't actually, thinking about reminders, the correct timing and the correct frequency and this type of question. So how can you optimize the reminders to get the biggest behavior change?
Morten Andersen 33:06
Very interesting. Thanks for sharing that. I think the last thing that I would like to do is try to say if, if you should give the listeners some good advice on how to use nudging on their own, I've been listening to this, I've been inspired, I have some changes that I would like to do in my private life at home, it really could be anything, you know, sort of general things, which would be the three things that you would advise a listener to think about or do in using nudging in their private life.
Christina Gravert 33:33
We already talked a bit about it today. So I think fairly the reducing friction, and how can I simplify situations reducing choice, reducing the obstacles that are in my way, that's really the number one so for example, if I want to eat healthier is that the mixer on top of my cupboard and do I need to get it down first, those type of things. They seem very small, but they can make a huge difference in following through. Also, as I said, I do care about reminders a lot, I think Timing is so important. So also for yourself, if you're trying to put yourself a to do list or to put yourself reminders, think about when is the sensible time. If you want to learn language as an app or you want to meditate during the day, don't just generally remind yourself to do it. But think about what's a good point in time where you can actually carry out this action. And then lastly, and it is really about understanding, first of all, what behavior is changeable, then understanding the barriers that are in the way, and then designing a nudge that fits with this and then also testing it in a situation. And if you're just doing it for yourself, you can just try it on different days, see what works, what helps you, if you're doing it for an organization, you might want to run a real experiment. But going through this process, we call it the boost model. So going through different stages, and that is not just about picking some random nudge that you've seen somewhere but that the nduge is tailored to the particular situation you're working with.
Morten Andersen 34:54
Fantastic thanks. I know you've written an article called The Hidden Cost of Reminders and I know it is Something that you you work on, where can our listeners go and find that?
Christina Gravert 35:03
Yes, there's a scientific research paper called The Hidden Cost of Nudging. And then there's a popular science article called The Hidden Costs of Reminders. And The Hidden Costs of Reminders can be found at behavioralscientists.org, which is anyway, a very great website was great articles for people who are interested in behavioral science.
Morten Andersen 35:21
Fantastic. Thank you very much, Christina, for taking part in this interview. It has been really insightful. Thank you very much.
Christina Gravert 35:29
Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Morten Andersen 35:33
What a great interview with Christina, I took quite a few things away from speaking with her. Firstly, there is no doubt that nudging should play a role when we want to make a change for ourselves. Or if we want to help others change, designing our environment or plainly just making it easier to make the right decisions or harder to continue to do what we want to change is such an obvious help, and it works. The many examples Christina gave, just highlight that. Secondly, her advice that we need to be very clear about when it is that we make those wrong decisions and target that with a nudge was insightful for me. Reminders and nudges need to come at the right time for it to have any effect. And lastly, reduce the amount of choice we have can actually make us do the right thing. If I get up in the morning, and I've already decided the day before what my exercise should be, that will increase the likelihood that it will happen. So thanks to Christina for her insights. If you liked this interview and you want to hear more, please press the subscribe button. Until next time, take care