Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Cover of "Nudge: Improving Decisions Abou...Carolyn is Director of Food Services at a large school in the US (I suppose that's the pc term for head dinner lady). Prompted by the way supermarkets layout their aisles, she experimented with the layout of the lunch choices on offer to the children. Without changing the menu, Carolyn made a dramatic impact on the take-up of healthier options chosen by the kids at the counter. This story is one of many related in the book 'Nudge', by Thomas Thaler and Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago. I highly recommend it to anyone in the business of getting others to adapt their behaviour. I suspect that is all of us involved in organisational learning.

I have previously posted on the topic of 'Choice Architecture' here, but reading Nudge really brought home how the simplest changes can have significant impact on the decisions we, and others, take. With regard to knowledge sharing in an organisation, the book reminds us that it is the re-use part of the process that gives real personal satisfaction, not altruism. Think about the micro-buzz that you got when you saw 4 people had rated your hotel review on TripAdvisor as 'useful', or that someone had posted a comment on one of your photos on Flikr. The nudge suggested here is that a virtuous circle can be created if the system is set up so that
1. It is really easy to give qualitative feedback
2. The contributor can easily see that feedback

An edict from upstairs to 'share your stuff' is unlikely to make that happen. A nudge, such as being shown that your stuff is of value to others might.
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