Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Nudge to walk around the Earth

Digital artist: chrisroll 
By Pelle Guldborg Hansen & Katrine Lund Skov

Last week we attended the Nudge-Camp arranged by the Metropolitan University College (you can see the announcement in the DNN newsletter vol.2, and read more about the Nudge-Camp in a coming post). More than 50 students were gathered to try to develop ideas for nudging concrete problems which was delivered on the spot by institutions and organizations, many of which were members of the nudging network (The Danish Cancer Society, Odense Municipality, The Roskilde Festival, Provokator).

One of the nudges we found most interesting was a nudge to walk around the earth. Yes, that's right - to walk around the earth!

The idea was developed to solve a challenge posed by Odense Municipality of how to get employees within the eldercare not just to be a bit more physically active at work, but also to enjoy it.

So how does it work?
Digital artist: vorakorn kanokpipat
The idea is strikingly simple. The first “step” is to equip employees with a pedometer. Well, that's not new you think. Haven't we known for a long time that a pedometer may increase awareness of and thus the number of steps taken through the mechanism of disclosure combined with self-competition? Well, at least that it works for a while?

Yes, and that's the problem. Disclosure may change behavior, but the battery of the pedometer lasts longer than its behavioral impact.

What the students suggested was to invigorate the behavioral effect of the pedometer by attaching it to a social nudge. Now this is always a dangerous strategy, and as we have written about in an earlier post, one should be particularly careful of not combining social nudges with incentive schemes.

So how did the students combine the pedometer nudge with a social nudge in a pleasant and non-coercive way?

Well, they suggested that the number of steps were aggregated before being publicly disclosed on a world map, showing how far the team had walked together on a trip around Earth.

Simple, small, pleasant, and social - and if one finds it impossible to refrain from adding some kind of incentive scheme, then it is possible to find some insignificant but still pleasant ways to extend the nudge. One week the apples might be from Italy, next week the coffee might be from Turkey, the week after the lobby may play music from Egypt, and so on...

Ooh - by the way
There are 3 things that we would really like you to do:)

  1. If you liked this post, why not share it with your social network - you can find the Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. buttons just down to your left.
  2. Did you know that "Prof. Nudge" aka Richard Thaler is coming to Copenhagen this month? And did you remember to sign up for his Public Lecture? If not, you may do it here.
  3. Finally, don't miss the next post - you may sign up for e-mail subscription in the top right corner of this post. 

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