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Behavioural design needs you

Design-thinking, Psychology

I’m an optimist.

I believe that most people want to live a healthy, happy life within their means, doing what’s best for family, friends and Mother Nature. But in reality – consciously or not – the decisions people make regularly knock them off course. A tough day at work justifies driving in, ordering takeaway keeps the children happy, or financial stress makes saving unfeasible. We’ve all been there.

I’m also bored of advice.

Daily messages about carbon emissions, nutritional content or interest rates just add to the problems. More information does little to influence my decisions. I know I’m meant to eat 5-a-day, it’s just not convenient, especially when my self-control is waning and M&S are discounting Percy Pigs. Other things get in the way and awareness campaigns naively gloss over the practical issues. Organisations need a new approach.

So here we are.

Last Thursday we invited some of the finest minds from across businesses, Government, charities and foundations to the launch of the Behavioural Design Lab, an exciting collaboration with Warwick Business School, bringing together design thinking and behavioural science to tackle big social issues (the knottier, the better) from obesity to climate change. As Behavioural Design Lead, I’ll be here to regularly blog about it.

The event was kicked off by Tim Harford from the FT, followed by Mat Hunter, Chief Design Officer at the Design Council, and Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at WBS. The message was that finding novel, creative solutions is difficult. Finding those that work is even harder. Organisations must adopt both experimentation and design-led innovation to tackle complex issues and uncover fresh solutions.

Behavioural design makes this happen.

The collaboration will bring together a network of design talent with behavioural scientists skilled at running experiments and managing data. All we’re missing are expert partners with a problem to solve and an open mind. Social enterprise is now entwined with commercial, charitable and policy aims and by focusing on better outcomes for society, we can help organisations meet their key goals. “Behavioural design needs you”.

The response so far has been brilliant. Some important questions were raised during the launch event, for example the cost and scale of experimentation, which I’ll be writing more on. We’re grateful for any feedback and questions are always welcome. It’s an exciting time so now the hard work starts.

Watch this space.

Originally published at

© 2015 Warwick Business School and the Design Council