Behavioural science: what is it, and can we use it?

Holly AbbottUncategorized


Business these days is all about trends. Since everyone is looking for any edge they can get, everyone is on the look out for new innovations from other ‘disciplines’ that they can apply in some way to business. However, behavioural science seems to be something rarely mentioned – at least explicitly – in business. So, what is it? And how can we use it?

Over the last two weeks, the brilliant Freakonomics podcast has focussed on behavioural science and how the US and UK governments are both using it to improve policies and services. Behavioural science is simply the study of how humans behave, and what influences human behaviour. In the UK, we’ve got what it is known as the ‘nudge’ unit using the latest behavioural science research to¬†increase the amount of students staying in college, reduce the number of doctors overprescribing antibiotics, and help people use energy more efficiently.

However, a trawl through Google throws up very few instances of where behavioural science has been explicitly used in business. An article from the Harvard Business Review from 2001 indicates that business is certainly not unaware of the subject. Plus, it seems to be a common subject at plenty of British universities. However, there seems to be precious little recent literature that talks explicitly about the topic, apart from, again, an article in the HBR from last year talking about customer interactions.

So, this week, we want to collate what is out there and put it out in the open in one place. Hopefully we’ll learn a little something, and you will too.

Watch this space!