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Venerable psychologists whispering “Nudge for Good” could be heard in every corner of Behavioural Exchange back in September.  This premier event, where the new Knights of Behavioural Insight met and exchanged anecdotes and ideas was fascinating to behold. Only too aware that their evolving powers of nudge could be used for good or ill, vigilance was their watchword, “Nudge for Good” their catchphrase.

But I think we could do better. Nudge4Great is unapologetic in its aspiration. Can we not use what we have learned to fulfil human potential wherever we find it? To help people get the best from every aspect of their lives, whether it’s in social enterprise and interactions with the public sector  or the stream of perceived experiences that we all enjoy or endure throughout our lives in the market economy?

Although Behavioural Insight is still the new kid on the block, accumulated evidence from the numerous randomized trials around the world have demonstrated the power of the concept. Whilst it’s not infallible applying the principles usually helps.

I think “Nudge” should now be for “Great” - great experiences in all areas of human activity including all of our interactions in the market economy, with our chosen brands and key providers.


  • A nudge is not a shove. It’s subtle, presenting favoured options as opportunities.
  • Applying pragmatic common sense – thinking what's in it for the customer?
  • Possessing a willingness to trial and when you get great results to be prepared to scale. Documenting trials even when they fail. Remembering that Edison discovered over 5000 ways to successfully not make a light bulb before he reached his ultimate goal.
  • Nudges must be cost effective at scale and capable of adapting to local context.


The road to successful nudge does in fact lie “East”, which happens to be the title of a great publication from the Behavioural Insights Unit to which I commend you. Their Executive Summary below provides a précis of the principles for successful nudge.

"If you want to encourage a behaviour, make it Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely (EAST). These four simple principles for applying behavioural insights are based on the Behavioural Insights Team’s own work and the wider academic literature. There is a large body of evidence on what influences behaviour, and we do not attempt to reflect all its complexity and nuances here. But we have found that policy makers and practitioners find it useful to have a simple, memorable framework to think about effective behavioural approaches. With this in mind, the principles from EAST are:

 Make it Easy

  • Harness the power of defaults. We have a strong tendency to go with the default or pre-set option, since it is easy to do so. Making an option the default makes it more likely to be adopted.
  • Reduce the ‘hassle factor’ of taking up a service. The effort required to perform an action often puts people off. Reducing the effort required can increase uptake or response rates.
  • Simplify messages. Making the message clear often results in a significant increase in response rates to communications. In particular, it’s useful to identify how a complex goal can be broken down into simpler, easier actions.

Make it Attractive

  • Attract attention. We are more likely to do something that our attention is drawn towards. Ways of doing this include the use of images, colour or personalisation.
  • Design rewards and sanctions for maximum effect. Financial incentives are often highly effective, but alternative incentive designs — such as lotteries — also work well and often cost less.


Make it Social

  • Show that most people perform the desired behaviour. Describing what most people do in a particular situation encourages others to do the same. Similarly, policy makers should be wary of inadvertently reinforcing a problematic behaviour by emphasising its high prevalence.
  • Use the power of networks. We are embedded in a network of social relationships, and those we come into contact with shape our actions. Governments can foster networks to enable collective action, provide mutual support, and encourage behaviours to spread peer-to-peer.
  • Encourage people to make a commitment to others. We often use commitment devices to voluntarily ‘lock ourselves’ into doing something in advance. The social nature of these commitments is often crucial.


Make it Timely

  • Prompt people when they are likely to be most receptive. The same offer made at different times can have drastically different levels of success. Behaviour is generally easier to change when habits are already disrupted, such as around major life events.
  • Consider the immediate costs and benefits. We are more influenced by costs and benefits that take effect immediately than those delivered later. Policy makers should consider whether the immediate costs or benefits can be adjusted (even slightly), given that they are so influential.
  • Help people plan their response to events. There is a substantial gap between intentions and actual behaviour. A proven solution is to prompt people to identify the barriers to action, and develop a specific plan to address them."