Applying behavioural science principles in genuine organisational settings can profoundly influence decision making processes and organisational behaviour. By comprehending human behaviour, organisations can enhance leadership decision making, increase employee engagement, and devise effective strategies appealing to both employees and customers. When organisations strategically integrate behavioural science, they instigate a culture of experimentation and enact substantive change from senior management to individual teams.

Table of content


Behavioural science can transform organisational practices in numerous ways. Khan and Newman (2021) demonstrate how to apply behavioural science in real organisational settings, emphasising the importance of incorporating behavioural science principles into organisational processes and decision-making.

By understanding the underlying factors driving human behaviour, organisations can make more informed decisions and develop strategies that resonate with their employees and customers. Improved decision leadership, higher employee engagement, and increased effectiveness of strategies are just some of the advantages that organisations can gain from leveraging behavioural science insights. Additionally, recent research (Wells et al., 2018) highlights the importance of leveraging behavioural science in promoting sustainability initiatives within organisations, leading to green behaviour shifts at the workplace.

Despite the potential benefits, embedding behavioural science into organisational practices comes with its challenges. Resistance to change, lack of awareness, and misconceptions about behavioural science are common barriers that organisations may face. However, with the right approach and implementation strategies, these challenges can be overcome. Building a culture that embraces experimentation and learning, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, and investing in training and development are key strategies for successful implementation. Furthermore,  organisational leadership is key in driving behavioural science initiatives, highlighting the need for top-down support and commitment.

Key Elements for Organisational Development

To unlock the full potential of applied behavioural science in organisational development, several conceptual elements are crucial. Firstly, understanding the specific context and challenges of the organisation is vital. This involves gathering data on current behaviours, cultural norms, and operational practices. Secondly, adopting a multidisciplinary perspective that integrates psychology, sociology, and economics enriches the analysis and intervention design.

Daniel Kahneman’s work on cognitive biases and decision making heuristics highlights the importance of recognising and addressing these biases in organisational settings (Kahneman, 2011). Thirdly, leveraging data analytics ensures that interventions are based on empirical evidence and can be continuously monitored and refined for effectiveness. These elements collectively form the foundation for a robust behavioural science strategy in organisational development.

Connecting Different Levels of Change

Behavioural science insights can bridge the gap between individual, team, and system-level changes within an organisation. At the individual level, personalised behavioural interventions can enhance employee engagement and productivity. For teams, understanding group dynamics and fostering effective communication and collaboration can enhance intrinsic motivation and thus boost performance. At the organisational level, aligning policies, processes, and culture with behavioural science principles ensures that systemic changes support the overall strategic goals. This holistic approach ensures that changes at every level are interconnected and reinforce each other.

Designing Tailored Interventions

Applying behavioural science insights to design tailored interventions for different employee segments requires a nuanced understanding of the unique characteristics and needs of each group. For example, onboarding programmes for new employees can include elements that ease their transition and boost retention, such as mentorship and clear communication of expectations.

Research by Bauer and Erdogan (2011) highlights that effective onboarding significantly improves job satisfaction and retention. Experienced employees might benefit more from leadership development programmes and opportunities for advanced skill enhancement. Tailoring interventions to specific departments, roles, and tenures ensures that they are relevant and effective, addressing the distinct challenges and opportunities faced by each group.

Behaviourally Informed Incentives

John List  (2022) offers valuable insights into designing incentives for expanding new ideas within organisations. He notes that successful pilots often weaken when scaled, a phenomenon he calls the “voltage drop.” This underscores the need for well-tailored incentives that consider human behaviour on a larger scale.

List suggests aligning incentives with intrinsic motivations. While cash rewards can be effective, non-monetary incentives such as recognition and opportunities for growth boost motivation more effectively. By understanding these intrinsic drivers, organisations can build committed and innovative teams.

Incentives should be flexible and context-specific. What works in one area might not be effective in another. List recommends using behavioural insights to customise incentives for diverse groups, ensuring they are relevant and impactful.

Scalability is key. Testing incentives in smaller settings and adjusting them early can reveal potential problems. Effective incentives are attractive, fair, and easy to implement across the organisation without losing their impact.

Creating More Equitable Workplaces

By integrating behavioural insights into organisational practices, companies can foster more equitable workplaces. Understanding and addressing the diverse needs of employees enable organisations to implement strategies that promote fairness and inclusiveness. For instance, interventions can be designed to reduce unconscious bias in hiring and promotions. Research  stresses that structured interviews and blind evaluations can help decrease bias, resulting in fairer hiring decisions (Sutter, 2023).

Furthermore, behavioural science can inform the development of policies that support work-life balance and well-being, which are crucial for equality. Flexible work arrangements can be tailored for different employee groups, such as working parents or caregivers. Developing inclusive leadership programmes is also essential. These programmes should be accessible to all employees and focus on identifying and nurturing diverse talent. Research suggests that diverse leadership teams are more innovative and effective (Page, 2007). By creating an inclusive environment where everyone has equal opportunities for growth, organisations can unlock the full potential of their workforce.

Customising these interventions to fit the organisation’s unique needs is key to success. This approach addresses the specific challenges faced by different employee groups and nurtures a culture of equity, leading to a more engaged and productive workforce.

Actionable Recommendations

  1. Invest in Behavioural Science Training: Equip leaders and managers with the knowledge and skills to apply behavioural science principles through targeted training programmes. Studies show that training in behavioural insights can lead to better decision making and organisational outcomes (Bazerman & Moore, 2012).
  2. Establish Cross-Functional Teams: Create teams that include behavioural science experts alongside members from different departments to ensure diverse perspectives in intervention design and implementation. Research indicates that diverse teams are more innovative and effective at problem-solving (Page, 2007).
  3. Embed Behavioural Insights into Processes: Integrate behavioural science insights into key organisational processes such as recruitment, performance management, and employee development to drive desired behaviours. Evidence from behavioural economics suggests that these practices can significantly improve organisational efficiency and employee satisfaction (Ariely, 2010).
  4. Promote Leadership Support: Ensure that senior leaders champion the application of behavioural science, providing the necessary resources and fostering a culture that values evidence-based decision making. Leadership endorsement is critical for the successful adoption of new practices (Kotter, 1996).


In conclusion, unleashing the power of behavioural science in organisations involves translating research into actionable strategies, understanding key elements for development, connecting different levels of change, and designing tailored interventions. By embedding these practices through actionable recommendations, organisations can achieve a culture of continuous improvement, enhanced employee satisfaction, and strategic success.



Ariely, D. (2010), The Upside of Irrationality. The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, Harper Collins

Bauer, T. N. and B. Erdogan (2011), Organizational socialization: The effective onboarding of new employees, APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Vol 3: Maintaining, Expanding, and Contracting the Organization, American Psychological Association

Bazerman, M. H. and D. A. Moore (2012), Judgment in Managerial Decision Making, Wiley

Kahneman, D. (2011), Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Khan, Z. and L. Newman (eds.) (2021), Building Behavioral Science in an Organization, Action Design Press

Kotter, J. P. (1996), Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press

List, J. (2022), The Voltage Effect. How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale, New York, NY: Currency

Page, S. E. (2007), The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, Princeton University Press

Sutter, M. (2023), Behavioral Economics for Leaders. Research-Based Insights on the Weird, Irrational, and Wonderful Ways Humans Navigate the Workplace, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

Wells, V. K., D. Gregory-Smith and D. Mainka (eds.) (2018), Research Handbook on Employee Pro-Environmental Behaviour, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar