Monday, January 23, 2012

I'll Have What She's Having

We've reached 1,000 jobs pledged on Hireland, in just the first five days. Hireland is a great example of behavioural economics at work. The core insight is derived from what Mark Earls calls 'facilitating copying': in other words, making people's behaviour and choices more visible in order to inspire others to copy them.

Hireland works by making visible what is usually invisible, i.e.: the creation of small numbers of jobs by large numbers of businesses. The Government publishes monthly information about job losses, but there is no equivalent measure of job gains. So if all business people see are headlines about job losses then they are going to be considerably more cautious about hiring, even if business pressures suggest they should. But if they see others hiring then maybe they can overcome their caution.

By getting hundreds (and hopefully, thousands) of businesses to pledge to hire staff, Hireland is a way of signaling a positive pattern of behaviour that is otherwise unobservable. Choice architecture and all that.

We are social creatures, we usually behave the way we see others behaving. So the task is to facilitate the right type of imitative behaviour. Or as Mark Earls puts it: 'I'll have what she's having'. And yes, it is inspired by that movie scene:

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