Community of Practice: Applying BI to organisations

4 September 2017BIU Team

Categorycommunity of practice

Tagcommunity of practice

In their recent report on the global state of BI, the OECD highlighted how BI has mainly been used to change the behaviour of individual people, such as getting them to pay their fines and taxes or turn up to medical appointments on time. By contrast, there has been less work on applying BI to change the behaviour of organisations.

behavioural insights in organizations

Attempts to change organisations are often not successful. But applying BI techniques can help increase the likelihood of success. At our most recent Community of Practice event, we drew from our experience applying BI to organisations in NSW and shared these learnings with attendees from NSW government.

Change the context

“If you want people to change, consider how the context is shaping their behaviour… then adjust the context.”

As we discussed at the event, before you can begin to change organisational behaviour, you need to understand it. You need a genuine and deep understanding of both the context that you are acting in and the behaviour you want to change to develop an intervention developed that will have the desired results.

To achieve organisational change, it is important to:

  • Foster openness – adjusting the context to facilitate an open and safe environment will raise trust and reduce resistance to change. One way to encourage openness is to create a space for individuals to ask and answer questions without fear of judgement or reprisal.
  • Make changes attractive – what are the benefits for people to change? Making the benefits for individual’s salient will help build buy-in and co-operation.
  • Get a commitment to change – people are more likely to follow through with their intentions if they are required to make an active commitment. By asking people to commit to change through a specific action point, you increase the likelihood of adopting the proposed changes. 


After you have gained a good understanding of the issue and the context, there are several BI techniques that you can use. Some of the ones that we in BIU have used include:

  • Co-design – building interventions with people who will be affected by the change or involved in implementing the change, e.g. working with frontline staff to develop interventions that will change their role and how they perform their work.
  • Modelling – working with people who are advocating for change to live that change in their behaviour and approach, e.g. if managers want staff to work flexibly, they need to lead by example by leaving work on time or working from home.
  • Removing obstacles – identifying potential issues that may be preventing people/organisations from undertaking the behaviour change and changing these issues, e.g. making more cars available for people needing to do off-site visits removes the barrier of not having access to transport.
  • Reciprocity – giving people something, so that they feel like they have to give back e.g. giving people access to new technology, such as iPads, for their work that they can also use personally.
  • Incentives – use incentives to encourage people to adopt the new behaviour e.g. providing prizes for reaching goals.
  • Gamified experiences – using elements of games in a non-game context (such as at work) to encourage behaviour change e.g. making the adoption of the behaviour change a competition (even better if there are prizes).
  • Changing informal behaviours – identifying and addressing informal behaviours that undermining larger changes, e.g. when the organisation has a policy of staff not working after 6 pm and your manager encourages you to leave work on time, but never leaves the office before 6:30 pm.
  • Social comparison – drawing attention to others’ performances to allow comparison with the person’s own performances, e.g. a leader board that shows how teams are performing in a workplace challenges.

There are of course more techniques that can be applied to organisations. When considering applying BI to your organisation, it is again important to stress that you really need to think about the context you are operating in. What techniques you use will depend on the context and what change you are trying to achieve.