The Science of Nudging in Leadership

The Science of Nudging in Leadership

LeadershipTips & Tools

Posted on January 14, 2022 by Blake Leath

Analytics-driven 'nudges' (short, science-backed suggestions) may be one of the more intriguing additions to the managerial canon in the past decade. Deceptively simple, instantaneous, and effective complements to offsites, 'training' classes, coaching, and traditional adult-learning approaches of old, we really saw nudges proliferate and excel in the past couple years because they work so dang well in hybrid workplaces with black holes and long yawns between employee get-togethers.

Humu does a nice job analyzing, articulating, automating, app-ing, and altogether 'animating' the behavioral science upon which nudging is predicated, and I have particular respect for advisors Amy Wrzesniewski and Adam Grant, if only because I'm most familiar with their work—and much of their advice, predictions, and plans fall firmly in the camp of 'Works'!

One personal hope I have for the coming couple years (as this pandemic shifts into endemic status) is that MUCH of what we've learned from the Great Resignation about disconnection, fatigue, full-on burnout, neuroscience-informed management, diversity-inclusion-equity, employee engagement, corporate culture, communicating-leading-influencing from afar, hybrid leadership, empathy, emotions and feelings, mental health, and all the rest will NOT fade away but, rather, be refined, carried forward, democratized, and consumed in sustainable, tailorable, 'best practice' sorts of ways easily woven into the DNA of organizations regardless their size, style, or stripe.

Here's to hoping, right?

Of this, I am certain: Drucker would be delighted, as he was—if nothing else—a ferociously unapologetic advocate for breaking and abandoning ANY status quo in favor of WHATEVER WORKS BETTER. He was a no-nonsense pragmatist above all, and because 'nudging' works with nary a sweat bead, he'd be fanatical about its base science, its analytics, and finding new and better ways of wedding nudges to every leader's and employee's work-world experience.

Work Rules! by Humu CEO Laszlo Bock, Richard Thaler's Nudge, Lisa Kepinski's Inclusion Nudges, Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow and Noise, Grant's Think Again, and James Clear's Atomic Habits are great nudgy primers, and this accompanying article provides a glimpse into what nudges worked well for managers in 2021. (Yale School of Management published anticipated/possible nudges for 2022 on Jan 11th, so hunt for that if curious enough.)

Our collective, immediate future is likely to be as AMBIGUOUS & UNCERTAIN as the past couple years were COMPLICATED, so maybe you'll find nudges an easy addition to your leader toolbelt—things you can do regularly and with minimal effort in the 'here and now,' as concepts like 'next week, month, or quarter' may feel psychological lifetimes away.