It’s tax time again. Every year, the government leaves billions on the table because people don’t pay what they should. The British government is tackling part of this problem with a low cost solution that shows a £2000 return for every £1 spent. I’ll take a 2000:1 return any day.
The idea is based around laziness and how to move people to behave a better way. It is a cousin to gamification but is something a little different than the normal competition and reward.
Funny enough, it started slowly in 2011 as a problem with attic insulation. No matter the incentives to install insulation and cut heating and cooling costs, people responded at very low rates. After looking at the problem, a new way of thinking emerged:
Using research, plus a smidgen of common sense, they quickly identified the problem: laziness. More specifically, the sheer hassle of clearing an attic before you can insulate it. This alone was deterring us from taking up, effectively, a free lunch. And so, in a pilot trial in September 2011, they suggested a simple solution: that insulation firms offer to clear the lofts first, and dispose of our unwanted junk. In weeks, the uptake increased threefold, even though it cost the customer more. And when this service was subsidised to cost price, there was a fivefold increase.
The idea turns on its head the traditional approach of cash-based incentives to get people to do things. It isn’t the same as the reverse, either, where we warned people of the cost of doing nothing. Instead, it plays on the the idea of small, clever prompts like the British Government’s new policy of sending prompts to pay taxes on time. It presents choices in new ways that make the problem and its messages more bite-sized for the audience. It nudges us.
In my daily life
What if my own company took the same strategy to get me to do my annual review or submit my timesheets before the deadline? They could easily let me know that X percentage of my coworkers have met the goal. They could ask me what’s more important between now and the end of the day than meeting my timecard requirements, thus presenting the problem in a new light.
The implications of using a series of bite-sized nudges isn’t just for marketing to consumers. It is very much a tool at the disposal of any organization trying to guide behavior toward a common goal. To see more about this concept and how it is changing behavioral economics, see iNudgeyou.com.