Article published on 23 Nov. ’15 in The Changer, a community of social impact professionals who are committed to making the world a better place.
Not just for geeks – behavioural science matters for innovators too.
In the past few weeks, two words have been oft recurring in the conversations I’ve had. “I wish”.
“I wish I could be this”, “I wish the government would do that”, “I wish my neighbors would keep our building clean”, “I wish my company had a more friendly environment”, “I wish…”.
I’ve said it too, many many times. But it felt so passive. Like I was powerless to do something myself. I wanted to say and hear something more active, more engaging. What if, instead of “I wish”, we said “I will”?
‘Wish’ yearns for someone else to cause a positive change. ‘Will’ puts you in control. You are the mercy of few others. You are the boss. You can do what you want to do and influence others positively.
Many of us have really cool ideas and are working to change status quo – as innovators, disruptors, social entrepreneurs or simply curious minds asking “why not?”.
The primary challenge for our type is linking our innovative or positive disruptive thoughts to action. Our enthusiasm for ‘doing’ encourages us to jump right into action. Sometimes, we don’t have the time to check whether it is the right action.
In these instances, I’ve appreciated that concepts such as “slow and intentional technology” can act as our inner Yoda, telling us to briefly pause, take a deep breath and ensure that we’re focused not on just ‘doing something’, but on doing the ‘right something’.
They tell us to take our time to understand the why of things before we consider the what and the how. This will enable us to determine how our philosophically strong approach can call upon the right efforts backed by the right technology to drive our efforts forward.
How do we do that? How do we take our passive ‘wish’ for things to be different in our society and magically covert it into a ‘will’ that makes things happen? Here’s where I think the fascinating and not-at-all-geeky field of behavioural sciences can help.
What is that, you ask? It is the social science considering social, cultural, ethnographic, economic and psychological perspectives to (a) understand why people do what they do, and (b) how one might strategise to impact people’s behaviour.
By applying a systematic behavioural science-based approach in our efforts to address personal, organizational or societal concerns, we are enabling ourselves to be much more effective with our efforts than taking a shot in the dark.
What if we equipped ourselves with practical ideas, rigorous academic research (in easily understandable jargon-free language, please) and the wealth of knowledge that comes from conducting first-hand social experiments and sharing our learning with others around the world? This would give us much more of a helping, encouraging and empowering hand than we might have going it alone.
The ability for all of us to do this had been nagging at me for a while. So Culture& is my response. The startup I’m building is an idea salon which uses behavioural sciences for positive societal impact. It brings people like us – Changers and social & technological innovators – together to exchange and test ideas that have/ have not or may/ may not work in certain situations or cultures world over. Imagine having as inspired a group of people at our disposal brought together in the virtual and real world in parallel, to help us along our effort going from “I wish” to “I will”. I think we can make magic happen, one idea at a time.
About the Author:
Ajantha Suriyanarayanan is the creator of culture&, and online ideas salon, and collaborator on a recent Berlin Peace Innovation Lab initiative with refugees.
This article was created in cooperation with Impact Hub Berlin.