Reflections from Business 


In this session, speakers discuss some of the lessons that have been gained from applying behavioural insights in the corporate sector. Speakers include:

Professor Mike Norton, Harvard University

  • Professor Norton spoke about the psychological outcome from having gotten people to engage in behaviour. Despite doing the desired behaviour, people may be unhappy about what they’ve done, which is not a terrific outcome. There are opportunities to use new kinds of incentives to achieve the desire behaviour, make people be happier with the company and want to do more in the future. 
  • When it comes to the relationship between money and happiness, most of the things we think about that relationship are completely wrong. The amount of money that you make, or the size of the house you have, doesn’t matter for your happiness. 
  • This understanding can be rolled out to companies in how they incentivise employees. Professor Norton cited the example of a Belgian company where staff were happier when given $20 to spend on someone else as opposed to being given the same amount to spend on themselves. 
  • Professor Norton spoke about another study on tax payment where just letting people express their opinion about where their taxes should be spent had almost as big as an effect as actually letting them decide where their taxes should go.

Ms Mia Garlick, Head of Policy Australia and New Zealand, Facebook

  • Ms Garlick spoke about how insights from data are helping Facebook to recognise their mission.
  • At Facebook, done is better than perfect. The culture and management approach at Facebook let’s things go out which are not perfect to see what the reaction is. Using A/B testing, Facebook can then use data to solve the argument around what should be done.
  • Facebook’s work with researchers on voter turnout showed the extent to which social platforms and social influence can drive real world actions. People who saw a profile photo of a friend who voted were much more likely to engage themselves. Facebook has released these software globally as a free tool. 
  • Facebook’s compassion research project with Yale university’s Centre for Emotional Intelligence challenges traditional notions of removing layers and clicks from web interactions. This project aimed to build more compassion into tools on Facebook, such ask for users reporting problems with photos which had not violated Facebook’s terms of use. The more emotion in the flow, the more people used it and the happier they were. 

Mr Gautam Jaggi, Lead Analyst, Ernst & Young

  • View Gautam Jaggi's presentation (PDF)
  • Mr Jaggi covered how healthcare is changing, what this change is doing to incentives and the behaviour of businesses. 
  • We are the victims of own success: advances in healthcare have meant that people live longer but are now at a higher risk of chronic diseases. The vast majority of these diseases are grounded in behavioural factors. We don’t have a budget or healthcare problem, we have a behaviour problem.  
  • Changing incentives—paying for value, not activity—has led to new entrants in the healthcare system (such as Google and GE) with fresh perspectives on existing problems (big data and analytics, efficiency, etc.). Business is now part of the solution 
  • The coming of age of a range of technologies, such as social media, is creating real time data and allowing greater engagement and empowerment for patients. 

Dr Jack Dan, National General Manager (Government), Telstra

  • View Jack Dan's presentation (PDF)
  • Dr Dan spoke about how behavioural factors that are regarded as a bit out there will move into the mainstream. 
  • The rate at which technology will evolve in the next 20 years means that the parameters of tomorrow need to be considered today in policy and intervention design. 
  • Technology will make it easier to create virtual environments where many biases can be tested, whether through RCTs or mapping.