Originally published by Simply Communicate.
Nudge theory, the science involved in encouraging people to make the better decisions, is happening around us constantly. Influencing routes to improved health, better financial decisions and smarter choices, the principle works to introduce long-lasting change from a collection of smaller actions, retaining a sense of control over the choices we make.
As the creators, shapers and facilitators of messages in our organisations, how can we apply a little nudge theory to encourage change?
When it comes to cementing a change in behaviours or a new way of working, directives mandated by business leaders are often met with a lukewarm and fractured response. Well-meaning but passive acceptance is often paralleled by stubborn resistance, intentional or otherwise. Long term, the message simply doesn’t stick. So why the Teflon reaction? Essentially, employees who don’t feel invested in the proposition won’t feel inspired to act.
No-one said that change was easy and, when you factor in a work place, diverse in its psychological make-up as large, multi-location and generational organisations tend to be, it’s easy to see how so many blanket corporate calls for change can fall flat.
To be an effective communicator is to accept that, for a message to land, embed itself and inspire action, deep understanding of the audience’s motivations, needs and goals must inform the way that message is delivered. Rarely does a ‘just do it’ from above result in a positive, long-lasting change. Moreover, it can trigger a fundamentally defensive and stubborn characteristic ingrained in all of us.
This is why employing a nudge, rather than a shove, is a powerful communication tool, facilitating a feeling of empowerment and autonomy through the use of subtle steers and signposting towards the overall objective.
Recognising this need to shift to a more empowering and inclusive form of communication, marketers, advertisers and communicators across a broad spectrum of industries are nudging towards a fundamental change in the way they talk to their audiences.
Choice architecture – the design of how options are presented – is becoming more prevalent in the messages we receive, offering perceived autonomy by presenting more choice, but subtly structured such that the ensuing action is gently influenced towards a preferable outcome.
Within health, it is concerned with encouraging certain positive behaviours, rather than penalising negative behaviours. For example, getting shops to place healthy snacks at the checkout, rather than relying on a tax or ban on sugary snacks. It’s been an effective tool in increasing organ donor sign-ups and encouraging people to save for retirement, for example.
In an organisation’s internal communications, the practice of nudge theory can prove extremely effective, creating long term advocacy and more empowered employees with a greater sense of influence and purpose. So how can organisations adopt some of these principals into their corporate communications to encourage change?