Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness

According to Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, authors of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, almost everyone is a “choice architect” at one time or another, whether you are a parent, an educator or a management professional.

Choice architects provide and organize “the context in which people make decisions” and are “attempting to move people in directions that will make their lives better.”  This attempt to influence people’s decisions in a positive manner is called a “nudge”.

Thaler and Sunstein conclude we have all made a poor decision because we didn’t know any better, didn’t do enough research, were tired or bored or ignorant of the facts. We’re humans, not machines and, as such, our decision-making process can be clouded by factors totally unrelated to the task at hand.

Nudge argues against formulating choices based strictly upon economic models of presumed human behavior.  By studying actual – as opposed to theoretical – human behavior, Nudge offers a wealth of insight into what influences our choices and how we can steer action to ensure a better outcome without limiting our freedom.

Nudge goes into real decisions from the obscure like how to name a star, to the everyday like to make a second cup of coffee or not.

Although I recommend this book to anyone involved in education, marketing or sales, the sections I found most useful were:

  • Framing the debate for energy conservation
  • To be human is to conform
  • Confidence sways groups
  • The power of the emoticon
  • Simple surveys affect behavior

For green property managers actively engaged in continuing resident education programs, Nudge offers many useful tips for increasing compliance.   With a little ‘nudge’ from this book, perhaps we multifamily housing providers can stop losing money on outdated maintenance and operational procedures.