Is the radical innovation of public services the Holy Grail for us working with public innovation? Experiences from UK Cabinet Office suggests that it is not always the case.
MindLab has for many years insisted that the road towards spotting the great potentials for innovation often passes through an interest for the little details in the everyday lives of businesses and citizens. Last week, I was offered yet a perspective on why insisting on this may pay off. David Halpern visited MindLab and presented his work on “nudging” that the UK Cabinet Office has commenced at their Behavioural Insight Unit.
What is nudging?
To make a long story short, Behavioural Insight Unit works on finding specific suggestions to how we can increase the probability that people voluntarily do what we want them to do; importantly without forcing specific patterns of behaviour on them e.g. through rules and regulation. It is this kind of “guiding the individual’s choice”, which is the core of nudging.
Behavioural Insight Unit works with nine ways that people can be nudged, which is collected in the acronym MINDSPACE. Read more here.
The devil is in the detail
What I found most interesting in Halpern’s presentation was that all his examples were on a very basic practical level. And I think that there is a tendency amongst us working with innovation to overlook the basic practical perspective.
An American insurance company had for example moved the signature box from last to first page of their insurance policy documents. The fact that the customers signed on page one made them more honest when they stated their yearly mileage, even though it made their car insurance more costly.
In the UK all applicants for a drivers licence must concurrently consider whether they want to join the NHS Organ Donation Register. The initiative is only three months old, but the number of registered potential donors has already skyrocketed due to this simple solution.
When guests reserve a table on a restaurant is it common that the waiters asks if the guest will call back and cancel her reservation if she is unable to make it. Here research has shown that once that the guest has said ‘yes’ to that question, the probability increases significantly that the guest actually does call back and cancel if the waiter waits for three seconds before saying “thank you”. The small hesitation simply creates a greater sense of obligation with the guest.
An agenda for government executives?
When Halpern showed us his examples I could not resist asking him how he would get government executives to show interest in something as ordinary as pauses during a telephone call and the placement of signature boxes. He simply answered that a good business case can make any executive to listen.
This appeal to focus not just on radical and complex new solutions is hereby passed on. I personally think that Halpern’s approach is extremely suitable with regards to debureaucratization and directing citizens and businesses to choose digital over analogue solutions. Perhaps somebody already knows any other examples of small adjustments with massive outcomes?