Nudge & Shove

Nudge & Shove

Nobel Economics Prize-winner 2017 Professor Richard Thaler, University of Chicago has rightly been receiving much praise for his book written jointly with Professor Cass Sunstein. Titled “Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness” he cites examples of simple nudges that have changed behaviour, from urinal targets for men to more intricate processes when a winner starts losing at the card table.

The Terrific Mentors International programme Handle yourself and other people better was developed on the Nudge and Shove principle from the start. Telling people what to do simply doesn’t work anymore. They know there are options and that there is no one right answer. They have also learnt that each individual is unique and that being unique requires individual attention. That attention must be progressive, responding to the way in which an individual Reacts, Responds and Reviews. Reform depends on these three Rs.

But what if the reaction is poor, the response, defensive, and the review, negative?

The uniqueness of individuals includes wide ranges of intelligence, big differences in cultural background and education from superb to trivial. These factors influence a person’s ability to learn even though we think that what they need to learn is standard. And that is where the mistake is made. What people need to learn is not standard at all – except in the very broad sense that they must be able to stand on their own feet as much as possible.

Let’s take two simple examples. A very precocious person needs to learn that emotional intelligence is essential if his or her entrepreneurial spirit is to get off the ground. On the other hand someone who has been brought up to believe they are not very clever needs to understand that whether they are or not is irrelevant. They can enjoy a great life provided they know how best to handle the assets they have and not spend their lives pining for the gifts they lack. The nudge enables the former; the shove eliminates the latter.

The trick is to get the timing right. With some people a very gentle introduction to their role-playing is best. These are the ones who prefer to feel the temperature of the water before swimming. Other’s do better if they jump in the deep end right from the start. We don’t always get it right but we do so most of the time. Experience in this sphere is helpful.

Mostly it’s a matter of judging how difficult the first step is. When the immediate past has been tough, when several attempts at revival have already failed, what is the correct pace to take a client? It depends entirely on how much courage the client has. Can you estimate that accurately? Not easy, but there is one vital clue and that is the definition of courage.

We all tend to think courage is some sort of bravado, a reckless carelessness that allows us to take risks others might not. Actually that isn’t courage at all, it is simple stupidity. Courage is determination, a singleness of purpose. Not about everything but about the few things that matter. Courage is when you won’t give up, when you know that what you want is right and you persevere until you get it. It may take and hour, it may take a lifetime. If you are determined you will get it in the end.

Nudge and Shove are the Pepper and Salt of Persuasion. Like condiments, they work well when used sparingly. Over-do them and they ruin your project. Use them skilfully and they make a sound business tasty.

So sprinkle a little nudge, grind some shove.

You’ll be the king or queen of the castle.