28 May 2014

Behavioral Science for Service Design

No one (actively) wants to make bad decisions.

No one (actively) wants to deliver bad service.

Yet both bad decisions and bad service are present in our lives.  

The three above statements are undeniable. A legitimate question is why there is a gap between what (most) people deliberately think (i.e. not wanting to make bad decisions and deliver bad service) and what (most) people actually do (make bad decisions and deliver bad service)?

There are many answers that would fit this question; yet, I believe, that there is one major underlying cause:

Most people hold erroneous assumptions on how decisions are made and on what drives (influences) behavior (what people do).

Without going into profound and lengthily explanations, the core idea is that
We do not make decisions only by using deliberate critical thinking.
Similarly, behavior is influenced by a myriad of factors that are not our intentions and beliefs. These influencing factors are both within and beyond our conscious awareness.

(I promised to keep it very simple. I hope I managed that).

The paragraph above summarizes in 50 words the main findings in behavioral science.

For quite some time behavioral science was seen as revealing flaws of human nature. Indeed, humans are not the (close to) perfect beings that we believed. Yet, these are not design flaws; this is how we humans are.

The main issue is not that people are imperfect reasoning machines and behavior is not entirely under the control of the conscious individual.

The main issue is that we believe that we are (close) to perfect.

In other words,
The main issue is not being imperfect;

The Main issue it’s not believing (knowing) that we are imperfect.

Luckily, behavioral science has studied our imperfections and now there is solid knowledge on the elements that influence decision-making and behavior.

Here’s when Service Design comes into the scene!

We all want to make good decisions, to have (enjoy) good service and to simply enjoy our lives a bit more. The best place for knowledge from Behavioral science is in Service Design.

Some early practical applications of behavioral science were presented in the Book Nudge. These examples show how behavioral science can help people make better decisions and act on them (e.g. save more money for retirement).
The whole “Nudge” approach is, essentially, about plugging in insights from behavioral science into the design of public service.  

The opportunities of improving Service Design by using insights from Behavioral Science are abundant in both private and public organizations.

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