‘The future of innovation is about psychology rather than technology’

Usually, the AI ​​Innovation Center at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven is the site of deep technological research and conversations about the power of computer science and artificial intelligence. But not now. Klaas Dijkhoff and Tom de Bruyne, co-founders of SUE & The Alchemists, an applied behavioral science company, gave a two-hour talk on how understanding human decision-making is a key to successful innovation.

“Every successful innovation has figured out how to leverage deeper psychological needs, problems, desires, fears and beliefs. Discovering these psychological insights and addressing them in your product is what sets products that capture, different from products that capture do not do it.”

Klaas Dijkhoff is a former minister, state secretary, party leader for VVD and twice elected ‘politician of the year’. Tom De Bruyne is a behavioral researcher, entrepreneur and fellow at KU Leuven. With their new business, they are trying to understand the ‘superpower of behavioral science’. “Understanding human decision-making is a key to successful innovation. The importance of the role of psychology is growing. But how can you influence thoughts and shape behavior?”

Psychological innovation

Klaas Dijkhoff and Tom de Bruyne in the AI ​​Innovation Center
Klaas Dijkhoff and Tom de Bruyne in the AI ​​Innovation Center

Developing a new technology is one thing, but understanding how we think, feel and behave is another. Therefore, Dijkhoff and De Bruyne are convinced that psychological innovation is much more important than technological innovation, something that according to De Bruyne will be even more important in the coming years.

“The future of innovation is about psychology, not technology. That is the key to creating better products.” But a lot can go wrong with it, he adds. “You can choose to manipulate certain human desires, as Red Bull and Donald Trump do, but you can also choose to help people become healthier, more productive or smarter.”

Dijkhoff explains that humans operate on two systems. “System 1 controls our instincts and intuition, it controls our quick decisions, which account for about 98 percent of all our actions. This system sends messages and suggestions to System 2, which works more slowly, converts these suggestions into beliefs, and acts more rationally than System 1. ”

Our instincts deter most of us from changing behavior, which is solely due to System 1, as it continues to seek confirmation from our first thoughts. “That confirmation bias: Even if you know if something is not true – if it fits your beliefs, you want to believe it. You will simply ignore the facts. That’s why you want to drink Red Bull. You know it’s ugly, but that knowledge is not going to win over System 1. “There are many opportunities for psychological innovation in practice,” says De Bruyne. “To get there, we want to shortcuts offer to system 1, and post-rationalize it. That is our basic framework. ”

Choice architecture

Tom de Bruyne
Tom de Bruyne

The presentation is full of examples that show how behavioral science works in everyday life. We learn why Ikea places the restaurant at the front of the store (“The food there is so cheap that you immediately think the rest of the store is a bargain too”) and why the Louis Vuitton stores give you the most expensive things first show (“it makes you want to buy their cheaper products”).

It’s about election architecture, “thinking of shortcuts, anchoring people.” through out in thinks and puts the user first you become aware of work to be performed, adds Dijkhoff. “Pitch the product or service as the best way to help people reach their goals or solve their problems. Although system 2 has no idea what this solution will really bring you, system 1 is already convinced.

What we often see are solutions that are looking for a problem. Do you remember how Steve Jobs managed to do this? You did not know why you needed the new Apple product, but you wanted it anyway. ”

There follows a theoretical side jump, about unwanted behaviors evoked by comfort and fear on the one hand, and desirable behaviors associated with pain and gain on the other hand. After quoting Clayton Christensen with his famous milkshake jobs to be performedthere are other examples behavioral design offer. We learn how companies like Spotify, Airbnb and Uber all discovered where to place these shortcuts to System 1.

It is also important how you make the choice, says Dijkhoff: “When I ask my wife what we could do this weekend, I usually give her a few choices. I know that if I only give her one suggestion, we will quarrel indefinitely whether it would be good or bad. But when I present three choices, I subconsciously make sure that these are all three things I want to do. And we always find something fun. ”

On another level, Dijkhoff shows how Brexiteers was able to “take control back” by offering a choice between mass immigration and money to the NHS. “Well, that’s election framing. And very effective because Remains had to use rational arguments to explain why this is a strange way of saying it, but in doing so they increased the strength of the Brexit arguments. It’s exactly the same with Donald Trump: He presented himself as a dealmaker who would make Mexicans pay for that wall. His opposition took him literally, his fans did not. He forced the opposition to talk about this topic, which they really did not want to talk about. “What could they have done instead?” Do not get caught up in the opponent’s frame. Do not react, or at least do not set facts against emotions. “


So what’s it all about? De Bruyne: “By designing an intervention that makes the unwanted behavior impossible, people can overcome their inability to change. Motivate them by making the desired behavior easy and by triggering their behavior. That’s how I became a vegetarian. “

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