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Nudge innovation

How changing our behaviour can help make us more innovative

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Most people are inclined to do good. We pay our taxes, recycle waste, try to eat healthy from time to time and try to be polite most of the time. But  most of our good deeds come from conscious behaviour, we only do a small part of that unconsciously. And as psychologists can tell you, most of our behaviour is unconscious.

And the same goes for problem-solving. No one will find a cure for cancer by accident while filling out their taxes. And probably no one working on openIDEO challenges is doing that unconsciously (and if so, it'll probably not make the Top Ideas). In most cases, we'll have to actively look for solutions to tackle problems.

But what if we can turn innovation into a habit? If we could be persuaded to innovate the same way we hold the door open for an elderly; almost automatically? In the field of habit-changing, nudging is the practice of getting people to slowly adapt to new types of behaviour. Did anyone ever get shot for smoking in a public space? Or get arrested for not recycling waste? Thankfully, that never happened (I hope). No, we were all nudged in or out of these habits. So what if we could nudge people to solve problems?

Jane McGonigal, famous game researcher and TEDlebrity, once pondered how many problems we could solve if all time spent on Candy Crush would instead be used to find solutions. So creating new habits can create a whole new innovation culture, we'll just need a few nudges.

Imagine if we could: 

  • replace crosswords with real challenges?
  • get free coffee for great ideas?
  • Solve other people's problems from our Facebook timeline?
  • engage people with interesting challenges when waiting in line?


Psychology might very well be the solution for the next phase of open innovation.

If you'd like your name to appear in our report on open innovation, please include it below as you'd like it to appear.

Erik Mooij - Utrecht University of Applied Science

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