Helping Business Behave
We all know how to live a better life. For a start, we would eat more fruit and vegetables, we would exercise more, probably drink a little less. We would also stop smoking. We would work hard and enjoy the time we have with our friends and families. We’d also do more in the local community. All these things have been shown to make us healthier and happier and to help build a better community to live in… But the odd thing is, we don’t often do what is good for us. We might say we should, but we don’t carry through and actually behave in the way we say we’d like to.
I’d like to think I’m in control of my own behaviour, but in fact, behavioural research has shown that it can be difficult to make changes to our lives – we get stuck in habits and routines, we like the familiar, we feel safe and comfortable in doing what we’ve always done. Basically, we find it difficult to stop doing the things we know we shouldn’t, and we find it difficult do the things we know we should.
This gap between our intentions and behaviour is called the “value-action gap” and it is the focus of much research and debate. It’s also where the science of behaviour change comes in. In fact, understanding why we behave the way we do has been the subject of research for behavioural scientists at Bangor University’s School of Psychology for over three decades.
Recently, this area has been given a boost with over £1m funding from the Wales European Funding Office of the Welsh Government to help us create the Wales Centre for Behaviour Change. The aim of the centre is to undertake cutting-edge research into the science of behaviour change and, in particular, to take our knowledge and expertise and to combine it with local business and industry to pioneer organisational behaviour change in the local area. It’s an example of how the university and local companies can work together for the benefit of the local community and economic activity.
This innovative project will be the first centre that we’re aware of to bring together behavioural psychologists, sports scientists, engineers, designers and computer scientists in order to design behavioural solutions to real-world challenges. It will also engage the local community and businesses in the co-design of research. We’re hopeful that the research and development work we undertake will contribute to promoting increased productivity and profits for companies locally. This centre is an excellent example of our increasing ability to translate the often world-leading research into practical applications to benefit both the local and national economy.
The goal is to help businesses improve productivity and strengthen their supply chains by applying research in the field of behaviour change. The centre will be able to provide effective monitoring and evaluation within work environments to ensure actual change. The research will also encourage collaborations with businesses to develop products and services which could use mobile applications or gaming concepts, helping boost their global competitiveness. Some local companies may also wish to break into new sectors (for example to bid for work on the new Energy Island projects on Anglesey) and the centre can provide support in identifying effective ways of doing so. The research and development undertaken will be central to expanding our knowledge about how behaviour change science can contribute to promoting increased productivity and profits for companies locally.