Agile MindSet & Behavioural Science


  • Martha Ferez, Robert Ord, Michelle Weatherup
  • Published: 04 October 2022


The connections between Behavioural Science and an Agile mindset give rise to valuable synergies.

Sitting at the intersection of psychology,
neuroscience, sociology, and economics, Behavioral Science helps us understand how and why people make decisions – conscious and unconscious – leading them to act in a certain way.

An Agile mindset – often referred to as ‘agility’ or ‘being agile’ – means being open to change whilst working collaboratively with multi-skilled teams and leveraging an iterative approach to deliver value faster in an evolving environment.

There are many Behavioural Science concepts that explain different aspects of how and why our brain makes decisions, some of which align perfectly with an Agile mindset. Agile practitioners should be aware of them to understand how an Agile mind naturally aligns to what suits our brain best when creating emergent solutions for complex problems.

Below are three examples setting out how Behavioural Science concepts can be used beneficially by Agile practitioners.


1. The Endowment Effect refers to a cognitive bias that causes individuals to over-value an owned object (or one that they helped create). Rather than fighting this bias, individuals can lean into Agile mindset values and principles to acknowledge, understand and embrace it to unlock several delivery benefits.

  • How: An Agile mind collaborates with multi-skilled teams whilst continuously gathering feedback to collectively develop a solution, product, or methodology. 
  • Benefit: This approach endows the contributors with a sense of ownership that results in a higher acceptance rate from the involved users and stakeholders, increasing change sustainability. It also drives innovation and decreases delivery risk.

2. Motivation Science states that action leads to motivation (not the other way around). Starting with a small set of actions builds motivation momentum which overrides the overwhelming feeling when confronting large tasks. This behaviour is driven by instant gratification, which results when emotion rules over reason prioritising immediate rewards over long-term goals.

  • How: An Agile mind breaks down a large deliverable into smaller chunks of value that can be iterated and scaled over time. The smaller deliverables are immediately useful to the client addressing pressing requirements and providing frequent gratification.
  • Benefit: Team and stakeholders who are frequently motivated to deliver an iterative emerging solution are able to stay engaged throughout the implementation phase, despite the daunting overall size of the task and limited information – increasing the probability of long-term goals being delivered.

3. Nudging is an intervention that influences people's behaviour in a predictable way but without blocking any options or changing economic incentives and thus preserving freedom of choice. 

  • How: An agile mind creates spaces for the team to reflect often. They provide team members with the psychological safety to speak up about what could be improved and what is going well.
  • Benefit: These moments of safe reflection provide a nudge for team members to speak up and for leaders to truly listen. This space nudges innovation, strategy reviews, reprioritization, change requests and commitment to the agreed actions. 

Accordingly, desired Agile behaviours not only enable agile benefits, but also create positive and nurturing behavioural conditions for our brain to thrive when dealing with complex change. Below are the key takeaways to remind Agile practitioners to leverage synergies between Agile mindset and Behavioural Science to add even more value at work:

  • Collaboration in design and production not only prompts diverse thinking, but also yields better user acceptance.
  • Iterative delivery not only enables delivery of minimum viable products that are immediately valuable to the client, but also fosters greater motivation.
  • Regular reflection not only facilitates regular feedback to assess if reprioritization or replanning is needed, but also nudges innovative and critical thinking.

Behavioural Science plays a key role in increasing motivation, collaboration and innovation within teams when embedding an Agile mindset in a complex change environment.

To find out more on how to leverage synergies between Behavioural Science and an Agile mindset to unlock such benefits, please contact us.