Saturday, 24 March 2012

How good are your choice architects?

Service design seems to be getting more topical - especially the behavioural consequences of service design. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein wrote a fascinating book a few years ago called "Nudge". The core thesis of the book was that during design "choice architects" make design choices that "nudge" people in particular directions. Take a trivial example - handles on doors. When a door has a handle on it rather than a flat plat the subtle signal is pull to open the door. Ask yourself, how often do you walk up to a door with a handle on it and try to push it open? More controversially, nudges can be included in some ethically challenging decisions. In the UK we still have an opt in system for organ donation. People have to choose to donate their organs after death. Recent debates have focussed on whether we should have an opt out system - assuming that people will donate organs after death unless they have explicitly stated otherwise. This simple system design choice would have a profound impact on the levels of organ donations.

How many organisations actively think about the nudges they are introducing when designing services? How many organisations train their service designers as choice architects - encouraging them to think about the behavioural implications of seemingly trivial design choices? My guess is not many. Test it yourself. When you next experience a service, look for those nudges and see how many really nudge you in the right direction.

Andy Neely