When Push Comes to Nudge

Kolding DesignCamp 2012 – Nudges – October 2012

What do you do when you want to change someone’s behaviour? You can ask them to change. You could put up a poster. Perhaps try and explain why they should change. Or alternatively, you could make subtle changes to the environment to subtly influence the automatic behaviour of the individual to do what you want them to do. This latter approach is called ‘nudging’ by those in the field and is an integration of several separate fields of research including behavioural economics, learning theory, behaviour analysis, design and architecture and neuroscience.

A classic example is based in men’s urinals. Apparently men are poor shots and so splash and spill when they go to the toilet, leading to a messy and unpleasant experience for others. Posters and messages are not effective. However, if you out a little picture of a fly in the base of the urinal next to the drain hole then suddenly men become much better at target

ing and cause less of a mess. This results in a very effective solution to a less than pleasant problem. And it doesn’t involve any attempt to convince men to take more care. If anything it appeals to their unconscious competitive (aggressive?) spirit.

That’s a nudge.
Footsteps The conference in Kolding, Denmark specifically focused on an integration between design excellence and nudge psychology. A fascinating combination. How can we disign beautiful, innovative and creative solutions to tricky real world problems such as healthy eating, energy conservation, exercise and reducing littering (amongst others)?


The conference split lectures and workshops with the latter throwing specific real-world challenges at groups of academics, business leaders and design students. I had to help get people to make healthier selections from vending machines. A tricky issue given that the vending machine at the Design School that we used as a model only stocked Coke and Coke Zero as beverages. (Rhetorical Question: which is the healthier of those two?)

More about the Conference and Design School here:  http://designcamp2012.dskd.dk/

And the Danish Nudge Network here:  http://www.inudgeyou.com/

I also learned that there’s a Danish Nudge Network! Why haven’t we got a British Nudge Network? I wonder whether someone will start one up…