I became a technology entrepreneur right out of college. Very quickly, I learned that the way we develop technology products is flawed from the start.
Does this playbook sound familiar? You create a new piece of technology. You contact a pool of users or potential customers. You ask them what they want. You do some A/B testing. You refine and release a product.
While a noble pursuit, the standard playbook isn’t taking into account what drives human behavior: why are people truly making the decisions they’re making?
why are people truly making the decisions they’re making?
The world of behavioral science
In essence, behavioral science is the science of human decision making.
Digging into the “why” behind human activity can help us understand human behavior better than any standard UX testing.
That’s why I founded Creative Science — to show companies that technology works better when behavioral science is at its core.
It all clicked for me when I read the book Nudge by behavioral economists Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.
The more I dug into behavioral science, I realized that there was a lot more than what I had learned from the UX design side of business.
I assumed many companies out there were already integrating product design and behavioral science. Newsflash: they were not.
Behavioral science should be the foundation of UX design
Companies often begin building new technology by conducting surveys and user testing.
They ask users what they want, and then implement something.
But this approach is too too shallow because of one key problem: we’re often not consciously aware of what drives our decision making in the first place.
I see the standard process as wasteful. You’re kind of just guessing. You’re throwing things at a wall, but you don’t really understand those underlying behaviors.
A deeper understanding of behavioral science concepts leads to better products.
Conducting a behavioral technology audit
At Creative Science, we solve this problem by tackling behavioral science and technology solutions at the same time.
First, we perform a behavior audit of a client’s product.
We build out something that we call a “base behavioral model,” which serves to provide the client with an understanding of what factors are driving user decision making.
Then, we begin to identify user challenges, and identify product-based solutions that would help solve those challenges based on the behavior model we created.
Our clients then use that list of recommendations to implement changes. Sometime the company’s in-house development team works alongside us, and sometimes they hire Creative Science to do the development work for them.
Who can benefit from behavioral science?
Any industry with a technology product can benefit from a behavioral science overhaul.
So far, our company has focused on clients in the nonprofit, health, education, and finance sectors.
The ultimate goal of Creative Science is to help companies become better versions of themselves.
In each industry, that looks a little different.
For example in the finance space, there’s typically some type of online platform that helps people save more money and spend smarter. In the education space, it’s a lot of e-learning platforms. In the health space, it could be eating better or working out more.
We’ve helped a number of education companies to motivate users to complete the e-learning courses they sign up for.
Rational reasons don’t always work. That’s why we can come up with better tactics using behavioral theories.
Behavioral science at work
Having a behavioral scientist on your team — whether that’s hiring a company like Creative Science or an internal team member of your own — can lead to innovation that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
At insurance company Lemonade, Chief Behavioral Officer Dan Ariely figured out an effective way to reduce the amount of fraudulent claims the company received.
Dan looked into the behavioral aspects of what are some of the things that drive somebody to be trustworthy.
Dan looked into the behavioral aspects of what are some of the things that drive somebody to be trustworthy
One of the things his research uncovered is that it’s much harder for somebody to lie on camera than it is if they wrote in a claim.
Part of Lemonade’s claim process requires the client to take a video stating what their insurance claim is.
It’s an easy and elegant solution. But without a behavioral scientist onboard, Lemonade’s team may have never thought of it.
Emotions create action
Looking for more proof of the benefits of using a behavioral science lens?
Many organizations today assume that giving people hard data will spur them to action.
In the case of nonprofits, this is especially true. You want to motivate people to make the world a better place and you think numbers and stats will do it. But that won’t work.
Nonprofits sometimes get into the cycle of showing people how big the problem is, throwing around stats and numbers to get people to take action.
Coming from a behavioral science background, we know that that typically doesn’t work.
Instead, you need to move people emotionally.
Think about a brand like Nike. They don’t talk about the features of their products in their advertising. They talk about how those products will make you feel.
Think about a brand like Nike. They don’t talk about the features of their products in their advertising.
Behavioral science will become a business essential
My view is that when it comes to the future of business, behavioral science will begin to play a starring role.
Just look at data science.
Today, data science is considered a key piece of the business puzzle. Chief Data Scientists is a hot new job title. Matt Wallaert, CEO of Clover Health, predicts the rise of the CBO or “Chief Behavioral Officer.”
My guess is that in the next 10–15 years, we’ll start to see behavioral science become a dedicated department at many companies, viewed as a foundational pillar to company success.
Once behavioral science goes mainstream, we might see it evolve into specialties the same way data science has.
For example, in machine learning, there are data scientists who work on a specific part of data science like natural language processing. We’ll likely start to see behavioral scientists that specialize in specific areas of a company in the same way.
Such hires should be made carefully, as it takes creative thinking to implement academic behavioral science theories into product and business use cases. It’s rare to find someone who is both knowledgeable in behavioral science and skilled at product design.
Marrying behavioral science and technology
Perhaps the greatest potential of behavioral science meeting the technology world will be the power to shift long-term behavior.
Just think about it: technology is already incredibly powerful in its reach. Behavioral science could make it more effective.
I don’t think that behavioral science or behavioral science is the silver bullet that will solve every single problem that we have.
But looking at a lot of the applications and software that are built around helping people save money, eat healthier, workout more, or become smarter, a lot of them are not built with a behavioral approach.
And that translates to a lot of opportunity being left on the table.
Currently, behavioral science is like a garnish. It’s sprinkled on top products after they’ve already been built.
If we can get to a place where the behavioral science is built into the core of products right from the start, they will become exponentially more powerful.
Decoding the Why — How Behavioral Science is Driving the Next Generation of Product Design.
If you’re interested in learning more, grab a free e-copy of my book Decoding the Why — How Behavioral Science is Driving the Next Generation of Product Design.
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