Nudges for Business

Warwick exec ed program teaches business how behavioral “nudges” can have dramatic effects on employees and customers.

WARWICK BUSINESS SCHOOL in the U.K. is joining forces with the government’s Behavioural Insights Team—more commonly known as the Nudge Unit—to teach leaders across the private and public sectors how behavioral science can improve business and policy. A five-day executive education course was put together by the Nudge Unit and Nick Chater, a professor of behavioral science at Warwick and co-presenter of the BBC’s radio show, “The Human Zoo.”

Chater is on the advisory board of the Nudge Unit, which was launched in 2010 and is a social enterprise jointly owned by the U.K. government, the innovation charity Nesta, and its employees. It has used “nudges”—actions or policies based on behavioral science—to boost tax revenues, persuade more people to invest in pensions, and increase police diversity.

Course participants will learn how small changes—such as the wording of a letter—can have huge results, as well as how to apply behavioral science insights to boost performance. For example, they’ll learn that when hospital staff were exposed to a citrus smell and a photograph of intense staring eyes—indicating the presence of a watcher—staff members increased their hand-washing by 50 percent and reduced the risk of infection.

Chater notes, “Understanding the reality of how people make decisions is vital for every business and organization.”