The Future of BI

Professor Iris Bohnet, Harvard University

  • View Iris Bohnet's presentation (PDF)
  • Professor Bohnet focuses on the application of behavioural insights to the issue of gender equality. She offers two exercises to the audience to demonstrate how the brain sometimes struggles to focus on what it is really seeing, and insists that underpinning issues of equality is the simple fact that “seeing is believing”.
  • Professor Bohnet presents some nudges that can help to get past these biases, using hiring processes as an example. These nudges draw on the fact that judgements are often relative rather than absolute; a chooser making choices in a bundle (rather than sequentially) is more likely to think of the whole ‘portfolio’ of choices and choose more variety; and that nudges allow us to experiment in a transparent way, which can start a movement. 

Mr Donald Low, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, look ahead to the future application of behavioural insights.

  • View Donald Low's presentation (PDF)
  • Behavioural Insights are less predictive than economics, so less precise policy recommendations. Economics is very precise, but often precisely wrong. But we should ban the term ‘irrationality’, heuristics are generally helpful and help us lead our lives, so need to be mindful of them (but can’t be debiased). 
  • There are a series of common organisational biases, including in government – eg. confirmation bias (organisations seeking evidence to confirm their beliefs); consistency and overconfidence bias (organisations rewarding confident individuals); sunk cost fallacy (continuing to fund underperforming programs); present bias (reluctance to accept short term costs for long term benefits). 
  • Organisations should seek diverse experiences and approaches (eg. seek outsiders to challenge assumptions and groupthink). 

They will be joined for an interactive panel session by


    • BI is now proven as a legitimate approach and tool in government. So it’s needs to become part of the DNA, and supported by government.  
    • But we should expect some failures – need to avoid optimism bias. 
    • Wicked problems, can well be unlocked with a more nuanced account of human behaviour. Belief that we can actually solve what has often seemed like intractable policy problems.