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‘The Behaviorally-Informed Organization’ on how to make your organization human compliant

May 7, 2021

A new book co-edited by Dilip Soman, director of Behavioural Economics in Action at Rotman (BEAR), is an essential guide for those looking to take their understanding of behavioural insights — and their organizations — to the next level.

Every organization is in the business of behaviour change. After all, explains Dilip Soman, director of Behavioural Economics in Action at Rotman (BEAR), all organizations — governments, non-profit groups, private firms — are working on getting their stakeholders to comply, switch, consume or make better decisions.

Professor Dilip Soman

It would stand to reason that practitioners and leaders across all industries need to understand how to incorporate behavioural insights meaningfully into their operations. They can get some much-needed support with The Behaviorally Informed Organization (Rotman-UTP Publishing, 2021). This new book, co-edited by Soman and Catherine Yeung, an associate professor with the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School, is an essential guide for those looking to take their organizations, and their work with behavioural insights, to the next level.

The book is really a collection of new key insights developed by the Behaviourally Informed Organization (BIOrg) Partnership, spearheaded by the BEAR centre. This international collaboration brings together 20 researchers and partner organizations (including private companies, government agencies and non-profits) from all over the globe. Since launching in 2019, the group has been actively engaged in projects focused on the psychology of risk, health and financial wellbeing and developing a prescriptive framework for behaviour change.

Ultimately, developing a framework for how organizations can incorporate behavioural insights into their practices is central to their work.

“While we’ve made great progress in establishing behavioural economics as a field, we don’t have great science on how to implement the science,” explains Soman.

This book bridges that gap. Readers will find that no matter where they are in their journey in engaging in behavioural science, there is something valuable to be gleaned from each chapter.

Those new to behavioural economics or unsure of where to start can rest assured. In addition to providing an overarching picture of what the behaviourally informed organization is and looks like, the authors offer practical advice for practitioners.

“Essentially, organizations need to understand that their stakeholders — their employees, leaders, customers and constituents — are human.”

—Dilip Soman, Co-editor, The Behaviorally Informed Organization

The first section (Part One: The Behaviorally Informed Organization: An Agenda), challenges readers to consider the various roles behavioural insights (BI) can play in their organization. For instance, practitioners could think of BI as a problem solver. Considering human behaviour might solve previously unnoticed problems and drive organizations to simplify forms, eliminate confusion and present choices more clearly to their stakeholders. Or, BI can be an auditor. By thinking like behavioural scientists, organizations might discover what did or did not resonate with stakeholders with their newly launched application processes, marketing campaigns or policy decisions. Better yet, BI might be an organization’s lead designer, inspiring the development of new products that are intuitive and easy to use. Ultimately, the book argues that BI should be every organization’s chief strategist, driving the way it designs both internal and external processes.

Researchers and practitioners also go a step further and put tools and key concepts into context (Part Two: Overarching Insights and Tools). Here, they discuss the idea of sludge, which includes all the painstakingly painful processes (like those involved with canceling a subscription or modifying our default online privacy settings) that keep us from achieving what we truly want.

Unfortunately, sludge is inherent in many processes and communications today and can prevent organizations from achieving the inclusivity they strive for. While overwhelming, the authors show readers how to identify sludge — the first step in creating a sludge-free organization — by asking the right questions. Are your processes efficient? Can your user navigate your system easily?  Are you disclosing information, such as surcharges and extra fees, clearly and obviously so that your customers don’t feel duped when they purchase from you?  Are your forms multilingual, to ensure that you’re accommodating the diverse applicants you’re after? Do hefty application fees exclude the customers you are targeting?

The authors also dig deep into how organizations can implement sludge scorecards to track how new services, products or customer service processes are impacting their stakeholders.

Later chapters (Part Three: Examples of Behavioral Initiatives from Business and Policy) present real-life examples and experiences of how organizations are using behavioural insights now — from changing workplace habits to projects that get low-income households to file taxes to international development projects. Finally, the book closes with key ideas for making behavioural science work (Part Four: Making It Work). In this section, contributors draw from their own experiences working within complex partnerships involving governments and public sector organizations.

“Essentially, organizations need to understand that their stakeholders — their employees, leaders, customers and constituents — are human,” says Soman. “This book is about helping companies become human compliant.”

Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Faculty Research Profiles »

Meet the Researcher

Dilip Soman

Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Science and Economics
Director, Behavioural Economics in Action at Rotman [BEAR]

Read his full biography