Agile Mind-Set & Behavioural Science

AGILE MIND-SET & BEHAVIOURAL SCIENCE

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

At a glance, one could think that the only connection between ‘Behavioural Science’ and ‘Agile Mind-Set’ is that they are both “buzz words”. However, they are connected at a deeper level that fosters synergies.

Before exploring such premise, it is worth defining these terms for context:

  • Behavioral Science sits at the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and economics and helps understand how and why people make decisions (conscious and unconscious) which lead them to act in a certain way.

     

  • Agile Mind-Set is often referred to as “agility” and “being-agile” which refers to the ability to be open to change whilst collaboratively working with multi-skilled teams and leveraging an iterative approach to deliver value faster in an evolving environment.

Furthermore, there are many Behavioural Science concepts that explain different aspects of how and why our brain makes decisions.  Some of them perfectly align to an Agile Mind-Set. Therefore, 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.

Next are three examples including a description of the approach and the achieved benefits:

 

Behavioural Science Concepts 


1. The Endowment Effect refers to an emotional bias that causes individuals to value an owned object (or one that they helped create) higher than its market value.

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.



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 the emotional part of our brain manages to rule over the rational part and prioritises  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 motivated to deliver an iterative emerging solution despite the daunting overall size of the task and limited information.

 

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, reprioritisation, change requests and commitment to the agreed actions. 

 

This analysis evidences that the 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. Next are the key take-aways from the above table to remind Agile Practitioners to leverage synergies between Agile Mind-Set 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 reprioritisation or replanning is needed, but also nudges innovative and critical thinking

There are other Behavioural Science Concepts that align to an Agile Mind. We will aim to cover these in future blogs to keep building this fresh outlook.