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Nudging: Definition and Examples for Nudges

People are creatures of habit and habits are convenient. Changing these habits, however, really is not. Whether it's eating healthier, exercising more, or acquiring soft skills in a professional context. Our world is becoming more complex, and so are the challenges we face. This sometimes increases the risk of making mistakes or the wrong decision.

Based on my own experience from over 100 transformation projects, there have been two issues that have been consistently present time and time again:

  1. Day-to-day business: employees and managers are increasingly overloaded. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, new topics are quickly deprioritized.

  2. The culture: Especially traditional companies, together with their employees, often look back on a history that in some cases goes back decades. On a positive note, this provides stability and predictability. On a negative note, there is often a lack of willingness to change and a lack of agility.

To meet the challenges of a VUCA world, companies and employees need to evolve. Further development and thus a change in behavior on the part of every single person simply means that something will have to work differently/better tomorrow, than it did today. Now, we know all too well from our own experience that behavioral change is a very difficult topic - especially when the behavior has been ingrained over decades.

And this is where nudges become a valuable and important principle of behavioral economics. A field that combines psychology and economics to understand and guide the process by which people make decisions. When used accordingly, nudges drive people to make better decisions. Digital technologies increase the scope and speed of nudges, making them a valuable tool for change management in organizations of all sizes.

The big question is therefore: How is a sustainable behavioral change achieved in such a way, that it is not perceived as a big effort and additional burden? The answer to this question seems to be the holy grail. But unlike the Grail, it has already been found. Its discoverer - no surprise here - was rewarded with a Nobel Prize in 2017. We are talking about Richard H. Thaler. Together with Cass R. Sunstein, he developed the so-called Nudge Theory.

What is the Nudge-Theory?

Nudges can positively influence people in their decisions without restricting their freedom of choice. In doing so, people are given the appropriate support (nudge) at the right time in their professional everyday life.

Every individual is unique. Therefore, the right support (nudge) in the daily work routine depends on the individual's own personality and the environment in which they operate. In a professional context, the environment is simply represented by the team the individual is working with.

Why do we need Nudging?

As mentioned before, it's about behavioral change. People often do not act in the way that would be best for them and their environment. This is true both in our private lives and in our professional lives. Our own personality all too often ensures that we do not behave in the best interest of everyone in the team. A (very simplified) example: In a meeting, the proportions of speech are rarely evenly distributed. The extroverts take the floor and the introverts hardly participate at all, because they don't get a chance to speak. What happens on a daily basis in many teams can have serious consequences. Good ideas and perspectives of the introverted team members are hardly heard and the extroverts do not receive the full spectrum of information.

How can Nudging help?

Related to the example, the goal is to get everyone to speak. The nudge for the extroverts might be: " In the next team meeting, take a step back and try to let other people, who are usually quiet, have their say as well. New perspectives will open up to you that you can address in a much more focused way." For an introvert the nudge would say: "Within the first 20 minutes of the next team meeting speak freely and don't wait for an invitation. You have important ideas to share and will feel more confident afterwards." And finally, for the facilitating person or leader: "Try to make sure you have balanced speaking times. Everyone on your team should get a chance to be heard." The example is a good way to see how nudging can work in a professional context. It's about bringing out the existing character traits and strengths of each individual team member in the best possible way.

Two Nudges for Managers

1. Are your top performers already job hunting?

Over two-thirds of managers state that it is a meaningful task of the manager to perceive when a team member needs support. However, they often tend to forget to consider the top performers!

Support for your top performers! Not only new team members or people who are visibly struggling need your backing! Make sure to consider your teams' top performers as well.

Give them the opportunity to

  1. develop their skills,

  2. take on new projects,

  3. work together with other departments or teams.

  4. Make sure that their contribution is recognized in the entire organization!

Mentally go through the list of top performers in your team and offer each person a form of support this week.

Why? Employees who feel like they're not being noticed and appreciated are 7 times more likely to look for a new job! Surely you don't want to lose your top performers on the team?

Don't worry, you don't have to offer a new major project. The important thing is that you notice their performance and offer opportunities to your employees!

2. Your next problem!

There is no denying, that on occasion some of your employees would like to have more responsibility or try out new challenges.

Your next problem! The next time a problem arises, don't feel directly responsible and don't try to solve it straight away. Instead, ask who on the team wants to take on the driving role for this issue and tackle it head on. Give a team member the opportunity to prove themselves, to coordinate a project team if necessary, or to simply work on the issue independently.

Offer your availability for queries or as a sparring partner.

Why? By enabling your employees to work on new topics voluntarily and independently, you automatically increase their motivation to contribute their own ideas. By giving your employees the opportunity to take responsibility for working on their own issues, you improve the cooperation between all of you, because this approach signals your trust in the abilities of your team.


Nudging is not about learning new highly complex skills, but rather doing the right thing at the right time with the greatest effect. Making the right decisions, based on existing skills. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge in the right direction. This makes nudging wonderfully easy to integrate into everyday life. This is exactly the reason why we at Lemin use the Nudge Theory as the basis of our software. With Lemin, everyone in the team can best develop their personal strengths and character traits for the benefit of the team. Very simple and without any additional efforts in everyday life.

You want to learn more about how our nudges work?

Book a virtual Coffee-Date with Jan!


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