I recently was handed a copy of the book Nudge (reference 1) from a work colleague. Even though this book was originally published in 2008 (and updated in 2009), the main theme that describes the importance of the Choice Architect is still applicable today. The Choice Architect creates an environment that helps people make better choices and decisions. The example of a nudge that has received the most attention from the book was the placement of a fake fly in the urinals at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. The choice to aim at the fly reduced spillage by eighty percent which resulted in cleaner restrooms and easier maintenance on the cleaning staff.
Here are examples of nudges that already exist in our every day lives that help us with choices:
- Ever forget your ATM card in the ATM machine? That happened so much, the banks made a change that the ATM card is returned before any next step in the login occurs. The Choice Architect helped you remember your card!
- Our cars are equipped with reminders to put on the seat belt, get gas, time for an oil change or a tire is low; cars also have options that the headlights turn on and off only when they are needed so you don’t forget to turn them off and drain the battery.
- Gas nozzles have been created so that they only fit in the appropriate gas tanks – meaning you won’t be able to put regular gas in a diesel tank – which will help in car rental situations.
- Birth control pills are designed to be taken one a day, even though pills 22 – 28 are placebos. This design is because it is easier to remember to take a pill a day instead of take a pill a day for three weeks, wait a week and then start again.
Do you have a bad habit you need to break? How about a nudge? www.pleasurabletroublemakers.com has examples of innovative products that playfully provides you with options. For example, if you select the car key, the bike key will drop and you will need to really ask yourself if the car is the best choice for what you need to go out and do. As we go through our day to day routine, we can use a nudge to help us make sure we have made the best choice.
Listed below are the tools of a Choice Architect:
- Defaults – there must be an option if a person makes no choice at all, and many people take the path of least resistance which will be the default. The default should represent the normal choice or the recommended option.
- Giving feedback – provide people feedback throughout the process so they know how they are doing and can make adjustments. The example given in Nudge is a white ceiling paint that goes on pink so the painter can see what he has painted and areas he has missed, yet it dries white.
- Expecting error – it should be expected that people will make errors, so the Choice Architect can anticipate the user experience and be forgiving as those errors or made or create an experience that eliminates the error all together – like forgetting your ATM card in the machine.
- Understanding mappings – make information about various options obvious so that good decisions can be made; examples are calories on menus, credit card interest rates and mobile phone plans.
- Structuring complex choices – as choices have more options, it is important to structure the options in a clear way. For example, paints that come in thousand of colors are more easily displayed in color wheels that show like colors side by side.
We are all faced with choices and decisions every day. Those that create the choice environment can help by anticipating our error, giving real time feedback, simplifying the decision structure and by making the differences about our options obvious and easy to understand. That is my opinion and a survey of one.
(1) Thaler, R.H. & Sunstein, C.R. (2009) Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New York, Penguin Press.