How behavioural design can overcome the dark side of big data

The effort to influence human behaviour in constructive ways dovetails neatly with both the core ethics and key challenges of sustainable businesses across the globe. Behavioural design can be one way to influence the way people act but for it to be successful, you often have to rely on and understand datasets. Luckily, behavioural design is also very powerful when it comes to making sense of data – even the dark side of it.

Enter big data coupled with behavioural design. A combination of obvious potential as the essence of big data is to track behaviour in real time and at a large scale. Last month, the American energy software company Opower announced a further expansion of its recent efforts to combine behavioural design with big data. Opower supplied customers with personalised home energy reports that showed how much power a household had used compared to its neighbours. This has led to a decrease in consumption as social norms kicked in and people strived to cosume less energy than their neighbours. This is one example where data can be used to influence behaviour in a positive way.

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