BSPA Conference: NYC, 2019
Philip Tetlock, Jonathan Haidt, Cass Sunstein AND Paul Slovic? I was always going to the Behavioural science and Policy association conference. This is A quick summary OF MY NOTES, DIRECT FROM the plane home…
It’s strange when there isn’t a theme to a conference. Yes, we were there to talk about behavioural science but ‘behaviour’ can cover a lot! It means translating a dizzying array of studies back to the workplace (which is my area of interest). There was plenty to get me going in the first panel on Fake News, moderated by Rebecca Blumenstein from the New York Times. I’m just going to give you some quotes:
Next up was a series of talks on social challenges. I’m just going to focus on Professor John Lynch and his talk on financial decision-making. The sequence he went through was exactly the same problem we face in the workplace:
Something bad is happening (in this case bad financial decisions, but you could also use bias or unethical behaviour at work).
Practitioners try to solve it all in one go by rewiring people’s minds (financial education, unconscious bias training, ethics training).
Hundreds of studies show this has scant effect on behaviour - “financial education has shockingly little impact on financial behaviour”.
Hundreds of studies show breaking the ‘something bad’ into moments and intervening ‘just-in-time’ is far more promising.
Practitioners ignore the evidence.
After lunch was Cass Sunstein on ‘sludge’ and the idea of identifying and removing the unnecessary barriers to beneficial behaviour. He told us that US citizens spend 11.3bn hours on paperwork and bureaucracy every year and shared his vision to do something about it:
After his talk, Cass was joined by Paul Slovic and Jonathan Haidt to present summaries of their latest books. This session was moderated by the equally brilliant and unequally energetic Dolly Chugh, who neatly summed up the themes as Conformity (Sunstein), Coddling (Haidt) and Compassion (Slovic):
Finally, to Philip Tetlock and a seemingly impossible question: Will a fourth industrial revolution, driven by artificial intelligent emerge in the next 5-10 years? The way to answer it is to break it down into indicative cluster questions and then predict the probability of each occurring (the slide below is old of course, AlphaGo did beat Lee Sedol but Uber and Watson MD have fallen short). So, will your organisation complete it’s digital transformation by 2025? Will your market be dominated by Artificial Intelligence by 2022? The answers lies in the smaller, nearer term events that you can see and meaningfully forecast.
What was my big takeaway? That I bloomin' love behavioural science, and that so many of these diverse ideas can be linked back to our refrain of #ThinkSmall. How do you improve financial decision making? You break it into moments and intervene just-in-time. How do you influence people about a macro-social issue? You break it into single stories and use them to paint the big picture. And how do you answer huge questions about the future? You break them into predictable, nearer-term events and track them as a cluster. You think small, you think small, you think small….