#CIPD14 – Gaining Greater Impact by Understanding Behavioural Science

Next session by Prof Nick Chater from Warwick Business School and Decision Technology.

3 things to talk about –

Unwritten rules – how virtual bargaining works within the organisation

Behavioural Hiring – rethinking psychological tests, removing bias and adding diversity

Psychology of Incentives – can science help form your financial and non-financial reward strategies


Almost everything we do is done together.

Even just walking together isn’t just walking together.  If a few people are walking along in the same direction – if one person stops to do shoe laces without telling anyone, the others will get frustrated.  If you just say ‘oh, my shoe lace’ then that’s OK – we’ve sought permission.

If we’re talking to someone, we look for responses – verbal or non-verbal – and if blank or different response to what was expected our brains don’t like it.

Humans feeding a baby do it jointly with the baby, unlike a chimp who just puts the food in front of the baby and leaves it up to them as to whether they eat.


Common objective, common understanding of who does what, minimum of costly communication, common goals about individual goals.

Virtual bargaining underpins this where we don’t even have to communicate to find the right and best solutions..

Successful teams are the ones who know what needs to be done by whom without too much discussion or communication.  The answer’s obvious to everyone in the team.  The more this is true the more efficient the team will be.

Inefficiency can come from hierarchy where more senior people impose ways of doing something that suits them, rather than doing something in the most efficient way, expecting others to fall in line.

Experiments have been done with chimps to see if they can work together for rewards – if the chimps pull together they both get lots of bananas! If one or both of them ‘go it alone’ then the result is boring food.

Chimps CAN do this to get the bananas but only through experimentation with the mechanism that releases bananas – there’s no purpose of working together to achieve the result – this is a uniquely human attribute.

Cultures are created by layering on of behaviours and experiences – the last time we met affects the next time we meet.  If we try and step away from the norm, the response we get will determine what we do next time.


So teams need – coordination, cooperation, diversity of skills and perspectives (= adaptability) and individual talents.

But despite needing diversity, our psychological norm is to hire in line with our ‘template’ of what a ‘good’ person in that role will do / be like – based on last person, based on how like ‘me’ they are.

Research was done into how well interviews correlated with each other, and how well recruitment decisions correlated with performance – there was miniscule correlation!  Luckily, as the business in the research had a strong reputation, good and intelligent people applied which meant that random selection stil got them some good new recruits.

However, once they’d worked with someone, correlation between ‘scores’ on who’s a good performer were very high.  Once we know someone on a deep level we know whether they’re ‘good’ at their job or not and are consistent in our assessment of that.


Fairness with reward – if you pay people for donating blood, donation goes down – it becomes a commercial transaction “I’m not being paid very much for doing this” rather than a moral ‘do good’ transaction.

If you charge parents for being late to pick the kids up from nursery, lateness increases – it becomes a commercial transaction “I’m paying for extended childcare”, rather than a moral ‘guilt’ transaction.

What does all this mean for where you work and your HR practices?

I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk


3 thoughts on “#CIPD14 – Gaining Greater Impact by Understanding Behavioural Science

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