Innovation insights to shift behavior

Through my work, I have the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing thinkers and doers in the innovation space. Every time we connect, I learn something new. So I thought I'd start to share some of their key insights here in a new series of "Qwotes", to inform and inspire your work.

Adam King is the Co-founder and CEO of BeThink, an insight and strategy agency dedicated to understanding and influencing human behavior. They specialize in combining Behavioral Economics (BE)* research with real-world business strategies to drive innovation and create positive change.

If you're not familiar with BE, you definitely want to spend some time checking it out. BE is an incredibly powerful tool that helps us understand and design approaches like nudges to shift behaviour. It's the reason grocery stores put chocolate bars at the checkout counter, and organ donor cards use a default setting of "Yes" instead of "No" to encourage sign-ups.

Here's a recent Q&A I did with Adam about leading innovation.

What's the biggest barrier you've faced in your innovation work and how did you overcome it?

We support innovation teams with behavioural science, insights, and tactics. One of the challenges we face is that teams are often already quite committed to a course of action when they engage us. This means that they are often only looking for tweaks or iterations. However, sometimes our research unearths core assumptions and strategic directions that need to be challenged or that may need to be adapted. One way we’ve dealt with this is to share the more disruptive recommendations with our clients in addition to the more iterative ones. We also advocate to be invited into the process earlier.

What's one thing you'd like to do differently on your next innovation project?

Spend more time understanding whether the innovation team truly has the support of executives or not.

What's one thing innovation leaders could do right now to increase their impact?

I think they need to focus on a portfolio of innovation projects that are very close to the business and find ways to deliver on short-term goals that build support for and balance their longer-term innovation initiatives.

What other advice do you have for purpose-driven innovation leaders?

Be very practical about how you manage up within your organization in order to keep the support, budget, and political will within the organization. And tie your innovation strategy directly to the corporate or organizational strategy, making sure you repeatedly speak to this alignment.

If you want to learn more about Behavioral Economics, Nudge is a great read. You might also want to explore some of BeThink's projects.

*"Combining psychology, economics, and neuroscience research, Behavioral Economics is a Nobel prize-winning field that more accurately explains and predicts behavior. It helps us decode human hardwiring, decision-making, and action-taking, and it produces a toolkit of rich insights and practical tactics."