Behavioural Science is a rapidly expanding field with new research being developed across a multitude of topics and applications. This interview is part of a series interviewing prominent people in the field. And in today's interview the answers are provided by Raphaelle (Raphy) March.
Raphy is Chief Design Officer at Cowry Consulting. With a background in perceptual psychology, she draws on design, UX and behavioural science to create innovative behavioural interventions that transform the customer and employee experience. Raphy has led the experience optimisation process for over 80 of the world’s major brands across retail, health and finance. She works with clients to develop practical and innovative solutions to their behaviour-based issues, including Amazon, Sky, Tesco, Aegon, Sainsbury’s, Chubb Insurance, The Times, Adobe and Coca-Cola. Given that she agreed to do the interview she must not think the design of the blog is too bad. Take it away Raphy!
Who or what got you into behavioural science? When I was 12 I joined the Royal Ballet School, and during my time there I learned extreme self-discipline, a skill I have no doubt has helped me later in life. Unfortunately, the dark side of this is when your passion for dance becomes everything, what you eat becomes a dominating influence and eating disorders are all too common. This is something that impacted a lot of my friends, so when I was 15 I decided to leave and pursue an interest in human behaviour. I wanted to understand why people acted the way that they do. I then went on to study psychology and during my studies, I worked in the telesales department of a magazine company. My challenge was to convince customers to renew an expiring subscription. I’d listen in on the conversations of my top-performing colleagues and when speaking to housewives about their Good Housekeeping subscription I’d hear phrases like, “we’d hate to lose you”, or “you’ve been receiving the magazine for 12 years”, principles I now recognise as loss aversion and commitment. I was fascinated that one word could be the difference between a sale or a dead lead. I began a mini experiment to figure out which phrases worked the best. Interestingly, this isn’t too dissimilar to some of the work that we do in contact centres now, except I’m now much more competent in the ethics of using besci to influence customers. What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a behavioural scientist? And what do you still want to achieve? When I helped set up Cowry nearly 7 years ago, I could see that there was a glaring gap between behavioural strategy and experimental design. In my opinion, even with our knowledge of how context affects our decisions, behavioural scientists routinely implement behavioural interventions without considering the design context of the final execution. My focus has been thinking about behavioural design differently. For us at Cowry it means using an understanding of how the sensory brain processes information to produce more innovative design solutions. When we understand how people’s brains work, we can anticipate where they are more likely to look and how they will behave. 50% of our cortex is dedicated to visual processing. So, although how we describe products and services to customers is important, how we visually communicate that information is equally important. If we fail to guide the reader’s attention to the information we need them to read or the action we need them to take, we undermine all of the behavioural insights, strategy and science that has gone into the creation of an intervention. So the accomplishment I’m most proud of is defining and establishing Behavioural Design as a key discipline. We’ve now got the largest team of behavioural designers in the world and we use our unique toolkit of 200+ neurodesign principles to create innovative, creative and scientific solutions every day. My next steps are sharing, upskilling and inspiring a new generation of behavioural designers. It’s really important to me that we develop this way of thinking as a behavioural science community because this knowledge isn’t currently taught on any of the master’s courses.
If you weren’t a behavioural scientist, what would you be doing? It’s hard to imagine doing anything else, but I love to create intuitive things, so I would probably choose to retrain as a developer or engineer.
How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life? I’m a firm believer in where there are people, there’s an opportunity to use besci. Part of our ethical framework is do unto others as you would do unto yourself, so I use it around the house to make chores like unstacking the dishwasher easier or remembering to water my plants. Later this year, Ziba Goddard and I are launching a podcast where we’ve experimented with everything from how to complain in a restaurant to creating the optimum dating profile. Spoiler alert, using besci you can get away with the most ludicrous requests!
With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make? I think it really depends on your area of expertise, however I would say that if you’re wanting to branch out of academia, you need to be both a behavioural scientist and a consultant. Meaning not only should you be an expert on the academic principles, you need to be able to apply them in the real world, communicate the science in a simple way and be able to build relationships with clients so that you can sell your services. I also firmly believe that design skills will increase in demand. Not every behavioural scientist needs this ability, but there should be at least one person per team to bring the solutions to life and increase the impact of the intervention.
How do you think behavioural science will develop (in the next 10 years)? What I hope to see is that behavioural science becomes a need to have, as opposed to a want. More clients are choosing to build besci capability in-house. Because of this, I think we’ll see a shift in the services required by businesses. Solutions will need to become more innovative as clients will be able to fix smaller behavioural challenges themselves. This will most likely result in specialist consultancies who focus on combining disciplines with besci, such as data or design-thinking.
What advice would you give to young behavioural scientists or those looking to progress into the field? Don’t be afraid to try something new. Many of the masters courses focus heavily on frameworks and experimentation. There are other ways to be creative with behavioural science that aren’t currently taught as part of a curriculum, so do your own research and apply for internships in behavioural consultancies to learn more. Every year at Cowry we run a global summer school specifically designed to immerse the next generation of budding behavioural scientists. It’s a great way to try out different disciplines and learn more about applying besci in the private sector.
Which other behavioural scientists would you love to read an interview by? Ziba Goddard, Juliet Hodges.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Raphy!
As I said before, this interview is part of a larger series which can also be found here on the blog. Make sure you don't miss any of those, nor any of the upcoming interviews!
Keep your eye on Money on the Mind!