Episode one: Introduction to Behavioural Design


At its core, Behavioural Design (BD) is a systematic approach for applying behavioural insights to solve design challenges that centre on human behaviour.

In some ways, it is very similar to popular design thinking methodologies such as Human-Centred Design (HCD) which are starting to be used broadly across organisations.

Behavioural Design should not be thought of as an alternative to HCD, but rather as a next generation. This is because, while BD builds on the fundamentals of HCD,  it importantly adds three pivotal components that really take it to a whole new level. These components are outlined below:


Action-oriented outcomes

The focus here is on changing a specific behaviour as opposed to changing a mindset, attitude or a level of awareness. While these might form part of changing the behaviour, their outcomes are not measurable in terms of behaviour change and so these kinds of design solutions cannot be seen as successful or scalable. Instead, BD advocates for a focus on changing actions or behaviours.

Behavioural insights

This refers to the use of relevant findings from behavioural sciences and neighbouring fields to understand both the existing behaviour and design solutions during the design phase.  

Impact evaluation

Impact evaluation is a robust empirical toolset to trial the tailor-made design solutions out in the field. This is extremely important as it creates a clear picture of what works, what does not work, and whether or not an intervention can and should be scaled.


From governments and non-profit organisations to private businesses and schools, the number of cases where Behavioural Design has been successfully applied continues to grow.


National governments

Behavioural Design, and the systematic application of behavioural insights, has probably had the most noteworthy rate of adoption at the level of government. From the early days of the British Nudge Unit to more recently established teams, such as BETA in Australia, it is clear that governments are very quickly integrating behavioural design to improve the effectiveness of policy, service delivery, and communications.

Social Organizations.1.png

Social impact organisations

Outside of government, there has also been development in the social impact space. Companies like BIT, iNudgeyou, and Ideas42 continue to  stand out as leaders in this space. They partner with a range of stakeholders including governments, non-profit organisations like the OECD and World Bank, charities, and other companies. The social challenges that they have focused on include poverty, financial capability, physical health, education, environmental issues, and employment.

Behavioural Tema in Company Icon.1.png

Behavioural teams within companies

Besides specialist companies, there has also been a recent increase in the number of behavioural insights and design teams as separate arms in larger consultancies such as McKinsey, PWC, and Deloitte. Consumer-focused companies, especially in industries such as finance and technology, are investing in behavioural teams too. In the UK, companies like Barclays have strongly embraced the approach, which is a trend that has continued in in the US, in companies like Betterment, Microsoft and Facebook and in companies in Australia like the Commonwealth Bank, and South African companies like Allan Gray and Discovery's Vitality. Some companies, such as Lemonade, have gone one step further by incorporating behavioural insights at the core of their business model and hiring leaders in the field, such as Dan Ariely, as the company's Chief Behavioural Officer (CBO).

Behavioural Focused Companies Icon_2.png

Behaviourally-focused companies

All around the world, agencies and consultancies have emerged with the specific aim of using behavioural insights to invent, or improve, the design of products, programs, services and communications. They seek to achieve this aim with an outward focus on client behaviour as well as an inward focus on staff within these organisations. Examples of leaders within this space include Ogilvy Change and Cowry Consulting in the UK, BEworks in the US, Briefcase in India, and us here at Gravity Ideas in South Africa.


As is evident from the above discussion, behavioural design has spread to a wide range of domains. Within these domains, there are a multitude of behavioural challenges that could be addressed, each with its own diagnosis of different drivers and possible design solutions. Within this broad variability, one consistent component that cuts across the different domains is a structured process that behavioural design practitioners use to develop solutions.


At a high-level this process includes four main phases. Over the course of the next four episodes you will be exposed to each phase in detail in order to better understand what it is, how it works, why it is important and how to practically apply it. 


Get in touch to solve your behavioural challenge here.