Saturday, March 16, 2013

See here how Google gets its employees to make healthier eating choices without the heavy hand of force. Are you listening NYC Mayor Bloomberg?

Below is an except from a recent article in the NYTIMES on Google's corporate work structure, or lack of it.  This passage I found interesting (HT: Marginal Revolution for the prompt) because it employs behavioral economics to "nudge" people, of their own free will, to a desired outcome. 
"...In keeping with a company built on information, this seeming spontaneity is anything but. Everything has been researched and is backed by data. In one of the open kitchen areas, Dr. Welle pointed to an array of free food, snacks, candy and beverages. “The healthy choices are front-loaded,” he said. “We’re not trying to be mom and dad. Coercion doesn’t work. The choices are there. But we care about our employees’ health, and our research shows that if people cognitively engage with food, they make better choices.”
So the candy (M&Ms, plain and peanut; TCHO brand luxury chocolate bars, chewing gum, Life Savers) is in opaque ceramic jars that sport prominent nutritional labels. Healthier snacks (almonds, peanuts, dried kiwi and dried banana chips) are in transparent glass jars. In coolers, sodas are concealed behind translucent glass. A variety of waters and juices are immediately visible. “Our research shows that people consume 40 percent more water if that’s the first thing they see,” Dr. Welle said. (Note to Mayor Bloomberg: Perhaps New York City should hide supersize sodas rather than ban them.)..."---NYTIMES
Google is employing a technique called "Choice Architecture" as developed by Economists Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler in their book "Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness
Choice architecture describes the way in which decisions are influenced by how the choices are presented. It is in arranging the choice architecture in a certain way that individuals can be nudged in a certain way without taking away their freedom of choice. A simple example of a nudge would be placing healthy foods in a school cafeteria at eye level, while putting less healthy junk food in harder to reach places. Individuals are not prevented from eating whatever they want, but the arranging of the food choices in that way has the effect of decreasing consumption of junk food and increasing consumption of healthier foods.---Wikipedia
.Re-read the initial passage.  Recognize the concept?

There are ways to get people to do what you would like them to do without force, real or perceived.

This kind of thinking could help create better policies and more cooperation.

This is a GREAT example of how COOL Economics can be (is).  :)
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