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📰 🍄🐚 Organizational Mycology – April 27, 2023

This week we’re looking at nudge theory, and how gently but persistent efforts to persuade and influence can pay off.

📢 Intro

In our May Oblique Thinking Hour (coming up in 2 weeks), we're exploring the future of work and how it's evolving. We’ll be building a futures deck, trialing it and then spending our June session playing the deck in further depth. Join us! As always, these sessions are our way of trying things, pushing the limits of what we can do in 1-hour and exploring fun and dynamic facilitation. Come to enjoy a break from the usual, come to learn new techniques, come to share your wisdom and insights.

This week we’re looking at nudge theory, and how gently but persistent efforts to persuade and influence can pay off when bringing change to people and organizations.

👀 Something that caught our eye

We think a lot about organizations, social systems, the future of work and leadership. Within all of this, we’re constantly exploring ways in which human systems function and fall into dysfunction. Recently we’ve been working with a client to explore how data science is conducted in teams and within organizations. What are the pain points? Where do things fall over? How do they invite more people to contribute to data science workflows and own parts of the process? Similarly, we’ve been working with AI-enabled automation deployments to understand how to engage workers in these deployments, give them more agency, and equip them with transferrable skills for their careers. In each of these cases we’re looking at a complicated socio-technical system with a myriad of choices and changes necessary to bring forward changes and improvements.

Nudge theory, described in the book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness”, talks about developing choice architectures and systems that don’t make dramatic changes, but “nudge” people incrementally into different choices. Marketers are great at these little nudges: “You’d look great in a new SUV!” “Are you planning to purchase a car in the next year?” Simply asking if you plan to purchase a car in the next year has an influence on you considering purchasing a new car in the next year.

It turns out that these nudges are a great way to build community buy-in and slowly shape the way organizations, societies, and communities work and relate. Nudges can be applied anywhere, from environmental policy and fuel economy stickers nudging buyers of cars to care about fuel economy, to high school students being convinced to attend university by being nudged to think in terms of lifetime earnings with and without college.

Nudges, as with any kind of persuasion, can certainly be used for bad things as well. We see this on social media, where “endless scroll” designs and “like counters” can nudge people toward dangerous ideas or behaviors in the name of “engagement.” At the same time, we humans have interesting and complex brains, rife with cognitive biases and numerous types of misjudgements we’re prone to regardless of how we encourage or discourage behaviors. Understanding the tendencies of individuals, groups, and communities may help you to more effectively nudge AND recognize when you’re being nudged. Share with us a nudge you’re planning in the comments below!

Engage with us

May Oblique Thinking Hour

May 10th / 11th (depending on timezone)

In this Oblique Thinking Hour we'll co-create a card deck for prompting futures thinking sessions. As a large group we'll pick a theme, brainstorm cards, and break into small groups to write the text for the cards. Then we'll come back together and play a round of futures thinking in breakout groups with the deck we just made 🤯. These cards, and this process can be used to build a unique prompting deck for other groups, and can be a great exercise for building futures thinking and group cohesion in many types of organization.

Two times are available

May 11, 2023 at 8:00 AM in Pacific/Auckland timezone (May 10th, 8pm UTC)


May 11, 2023 at 8:00 PM in Pacific/Auckland timezone (May 11th, 8am UTC)


Contact us at [email protected]