3 Behavioral Science Principles That Can Move the Needle Forward in the Workplace

Leveraging these can lead to people working together more efficiently

Why aren't more people applying scientific principles to the workplace? - Credit by Getty Images
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Behavioral science is one of the most powerful disciplines for learning about human emotion and decision-making. While we know how to leverage behavioral science principles in marketing and advertising to connect with consumers, we rarely think about how these psychological principles can be applied to ourselves inside the workplace to help us work more effectively together and propel our own careers.

Here are a few behavioral science principles that can help improve your influence in the workplace.

Priming and framing

By providing context that will guide your audience in interpreting your communication in a certain way, you prime your listeners’ brains for absorbing and cementing your idea. Priming can be used in all kinds of ways, from setting the stage for a meeting to pitching your service to a prospective client. In garnering attention at the start of a meeting, for example, you can put your listeners at ease by saying that your pitch is going to be short and you can’t hang around afterward for too long. This subconsciously keeps the listener’s brain in the here and now. And in securing attention in a personal or work-related pitch, you can introduce yourself in a way that touches on your past achievements rather than citing a list of companies where you’ve previously worked, which will keep listeners wondering about the contributions you can bring them.

They can make all the difference in getting an idea across, working more effectively with a team or uncovering the next big idea.

After priming, the frame is the instrument that packages the advantage, whether it be power, information or authority. By demonstrating that your project idea is not just a stand-alone spark of creativity, for example, but that there are larger market forces driving your idea, that there is a rare market window and that there is competition, you can build strength and context around your pitch.

Thinking beyond “the work”

“We’re all about the work.” This is a line that many people and agencies use, with the implicit assumption that “the work” only relates to the strategic, creative and technical content, or the output.

This assumption can trip us up, however, as the client sees “the work” as much more than that. They see all the other behavioral aspects that influence the satisfaction of the output. This is why an agency producing some great work can still lose the business. For example, when we get our car serviced, our perception of the technical quality is influenced by other customer service aspects such as the reception area, great coffee, pick-up, drop-off, etc. Likewise, agencies can ensure the quality perception of the creative is protected, or even enhanced, by an exceptional client service experience. Developing a client experience strategy that spans the entire journey and identifies gaps along the way will help. Satisfaction is the gap between perception and expectation. Both are emotional frames of mind and they are constantly changing. Being aware of both sides of this equation at all times allows us to work more effectively with clients, stakeholders, colleagues and bosses.

Creating alchemy to produce outstanding results

Clients and agencies often focus on the advertising development process to create flow and avoid chaos. However, the organizational climate can often inhibit great creative rather than ensure it. The rational, often factory-like approach can ignore the emotional, behavioral science aspects of collaboration, which are key to making the end product outstanding. Alchemy is often attributed to chance or chemistry, but it can actually be consciously cultivated by a team. How? By being accountable for your deliverable and maintaining curiosity and shared accountability of all aspects of the project, you’re more likely to keep the bigger picture in mind, ensuring that your work has synergy and alignment with all other elements of the project. Further, when team members are encouraged to follow their innate cognitive paths that might diverge from existing systems, processes or established ways of doing things, unexpected solutions and ideas are more likely to be found.

These are just a few examples of how we can tap into behavioral science principles in the workplace. While we’re always trying to leverage insights about human emotion and decision-making patterns within our work and amongst our consumers, we don’t always leverage these same principles in the workplace. They can make all the difference in getting an idea across, working more effectively with a team or uncovering the next big idea.

Paul Spriggs is president, Americas of System1 Agency.