Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Driving The Behaviour You Want

Uber has been in the news again regarding the psychological practices it embeds in its operating system to drive its growth.

The New York Times outlines the activity here. But in a recent talk at Singapore Management University, Dr Peter Todd from Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin spoke about the implications of what he called this kind of “search behaviour”.

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He didn’t refer specifically to Uber in his talk, but the study he has underway of how and why people make behavioural decisions has clearly been hard wired into Uber’s globally successful, although problematic, approach.

The privacy and consumer control implications are significant as organisations drive smart behaviour science into their tech and management systems.

Search theory says “animals” leave a place when the rate of return they can immediately get falls to the average rate of return in the environment ie. it’s better to search or shop elsewhere.

Todd’s research showed that although “searching” (for both new cab customers and anything else humans want) is an innate human condition, the more we understand about it – the more this searching capacity can be extended, and manipulated.

And Uber just shows that tech developments which have made searching more user friendly, can also be used by it and other organisations to drive other behaviour changes we didn’t expect – and to further influence/control the choices we make.


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