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“Bridging the Gap” a conference for students and alumni of LSE’s Exec MSc Behavioural Science



This is the first conference of the Exec MSc in Behavioural Science, there are now five cohorts and more than 250 very smart behavioural scientists bringing insights to the public and private sector around the world. I am sharing my thoughts in this blog, they are based on my learnings and they are not meant to be a comprehensive overview of the day. I invite the other participants to contribute their comments.


The subject of this first conference is “Bridging the gap” which is a subject close to my heart: my aim is to encourage more companies in the private sector to understand the benefits of behavioural insights to develop their strategy and plan their change programmes.


Behavioural change is the better way to do change management

I believe there is a gap between the ‘academic’ way and the ‘commercial’ one. The primary one I come across is the solid data analysis and experiments required for an academic research and project. Working with my commercial clients, the data phase is often seen as requiring too much time and effort. There is always a way though, and I am able to bring some of the foundations of data analysis and measurement in my work.


I am sharing two of the highlights of the day for me:


Christina Gravert on ‘Turning research into impact’


Christina successfully combines her role as assistant professor of Economics at the University of Copenhagen with consultancy work, as co-founder of Impactually.


I learnt about the importance of explaining what behavioural science and how it can be applied to the corporate world. We cannot just assume leaders and managers know what it is and how it can benefit them. Her advice is to “Find the ‘believers’ in an organisation and start with low-hanging fruit”.


Another advice is to “Advocate for the most scientific approach and know when to compromise and when to walk away”. This is very pertinent to my experience of the gap between the ‘academic’ way and the ‘commercial’ one I mentioned above.


Christina also shared some of her research and consulting work in Sweden and Denmark, for example how to de-bias the hiring process, policies against littering, increase use of public transport and more.


Rapid Fire: Behavioural science in the field


Seven students and alumni presented their experiences. I am sharing my learning from each of them:

  • Herman Smit, Cenfri. The cause of a behaviour may not be what you expect: in the case of financial product uptake in South Africa, product features drive financial decision more than actual access to (which is what they expected).

  • Jo Osborn, South East Water. Make water use salient: giving customers a ‘Water use report’ to let them know how much water they use. And the importance of in-depth customer segmentation.

  • Quique Belengues, BBVA. On how to set up a behavioural science team in a large bank and how to design multiple applications across its departments.

  • Daniel Metcalfe, Wellcome Trust. There are wide gaps between inertia and action, a just-in-time intervention is more promising than big bang approach. And a reminder never to ignore the evidence

  • Lizzie Broadbent, Seen Heard. Working with clients to find the right solution for them, rather than what someone else is doing. And be weary of pilots: the importance of capturing the difference with the normal set up.

  • Afroditi Tsougianni, Mudano. Creating collaboration with the introduction of Obeya (big room in Japanese). This physical collaboration space empowers team to make more informed decisions in a more efficient manner

  • Zeina Afif, World Bank. Among the many examples, how to go from Decision to Action in a project to promote the use of chlorine in water in Kenia. And how to introduce courses for parents to encourage kids to attend school in Iraq.

These are my thought on some of the speakers, there were many more and a lively debate on setting up a profession body of behavioural science practitioners.


I invite the other participants to contribute their comments.


And I look forward to the next LSE Behavioural Science conference!

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