Some lessons for change managers from economists – how to nudge

15 January, 2018

Next to popular books about change management that often offer not much more than common sense advice, there are a lot of books worth reading and very useful to our profession and which do not necessarily deal directly with change management.

 “Nudge” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein is one such great book. Ten years after its publication, the concept of nudging is well established and the book still a must for people in communications and change management.

What we do in change management is nothing other than try to nudge people. Thaler and Sunstein have come up with six principles of how to do this without manipulating. I have added the communicator’s perspective in brackets:

  • (Clarify) INcentives
  • (Help people to) Understand mappings … (i.e. choices and outcome)
  • (Set) Defaults…(for the benefit of people, e.g. during software installations)
  • Give feedback…(on the outcome of people’s activities)
  • Expect error
  • Structure complex choice

These principles show that nudging is rather about creating clarity on choice opportunities than about unduly influencing people as critics like to emphasize.