It’s a good time to be in behaviour. For some time now, organisations have been integrating the findings of behavioural science into the way they go about getting things done.
Under a coalition government (2010-15), the UK saw the creation of a Behavioural Insights Team, informally known as the Nudge Unit. Now an independent entity part-owned by the Cabinet Office, the project was indicative of the Cameron government’s emphasis on fiscal efficiency fuelled by new ideas from modern business. Typically slower to try out new ideas, the government’s adoption of behavioural insight showed that this area of academia, which had been bubbling away since the early 1980s and Richard Thaler’s Toward a Positive Theory of Consumer Choice, had become a significant force for change.
The discipline is reaching greater prominence, aided by voices from the advertising world that have brought research findings into practice. Richard Shotton writes in his book, The Choice Factory, that ideas from behavioural science first began to influence him while he was a young media planner working on the NHS’s Give Blood account. The service was in need of donations and the current copy, which asked the country as a whole to contribute, was not working.