10 “Nudges” to Radically Change Your Organization

Wholesale organizational change is hard and occasionally painful work. Those tasked with leading the charge are keen to innovate and exploit life-hacks wherever possible. Nudge Theory is a technique developed in behavioral science and psychology that asserts small indirect suggestions can have a huge change and positive effect on outcomes.

Nudge Theory came to prominence in the late noughties as a management tactic with the publication of a book, Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

In the spirit of sharing during this festive time of year, here are 10 nudges along with the impact that they may have on your organization.

1. Gratitude
We reward good behavior in children through praise and saying thank you. What works with an eight-year-old can work even better with someone in the workplace. Seek someone out in your working environment each day to thank for their help and support. You’ll almost certainly make their day, and make your organization a happier place.

2. Public transport
The quickest way to acclimatize to a new location (and save some money) is to head past the taxi queue and jump on public transport. It heightens your senses and forces you to become aware of your new surroundings.

3. Making new friends
If you made one new contact per week by the end of the year you’d have at least 50 new friends.. Applied at scale to a team of 10 people would mean 500 new contacts. There’s a related point. Don’t dine alone when you’re travelling; build relationships and networks instead. It will enrich your life and offer new friends, employees, clients or customers.

4. Walk with me
Next time you have a meeting, head outside instead of crowding around a conference room table. There’s an immediate benefit to your wellbeing from being outdoors. The external stimulus will improve your thinking and facing outwards rather than face-to-face aides in conflict resolution. This nudge also relives pressure on those busy conference room calendars.

5. Phone home
Work to improve the workflow and the quality of our conversations. Picking up the phone in response to emails is a favorite tactic of mine to shortcut protracted exchanges. It surprises people, cuts down nonsense and speeds up decision making.

6. Social networks
Trying to get in touch with a very busy colleague, client or partner? A direct message via their favorite social network might do the trick. Social networks have no room for organizational hierarchy and enable you to build direct relationships across an organization.

7. Blogs and the Intranet
We use blogs and internal communities to think out loud and develop ideas. Like social networks they subvert traditional hierarchies and dodge corporate politics. My thinking is always improved when my ideas are scrutinized and challenged by colleagues. Yours almost certainly would be too.

8. 20/20 reading rule
Reading widely is critical to keeping your brain agile and developing your expertise. If you fit in 20 minutes a day you’ll read around 20 books a year. After finishing each book write up and share a review. It’ll help you learn and share your newfound knowledge.

9. Postcards
My Mum installed in me the habit of sending thank you notes. She knew that nudge #1, sharing gratitude, is important… but she also understood that people appreciate handwritten notes. In a business environment, handwritten letters will never get buried in someone’s inbox. They are also a memorable way to create and build relationships. I send lots of postcards.

10. Thinking fit
The relationship between personal wellbeing and performance at work is critical. Build exercise into your life by walking to work, to meetings, and playing sports at lunch or in the evening.

If you have a good nudge to add to the list please let me know in the comments.