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Ruth Schmidt Pushes Behavioral Design Toward Complex Challenges

April 13, 2022

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Expanded thinking about the hybrid field of behavioral design

Associate professor Ruth Schmidt has been sharing her ideas, models, and work related to behavioral design and the direction of the field.

As she and co-author Sarah Reid write in their article, “Wicked Behavioral Problems” in the Journal of Design Strategy:

We have the potential to reposition behavioral design from a reactive discipline, correcting for biases and bottlenecks that are already occurring, to a proactive one located further upstream, which reframes what we're even solving for and informs policy development.

In Behavioral Public Policy, Ruth examines how policy practitioners could go beyond the model of choice architecture to considering choice infrastructure, which allows them to apply systems thinking to complex public policy challenges. Considering choice infrastructures—the systems and conditions at play in a given situation—helps “choice architecture solutions work effectively and as planned.”

And in The Decision Lab podcast, she brings these ideas together:

So much of where [behavioral design] earned its credibility as a field has been in being able to think small, not big. It’s actually been a longstanding issue: how we can apply these insights to larger problems? If we don’t consider the conditions that we’re designing into and we don’t, as a field, get really, really good at considering how we can create conditions that aren’t just about individual point solutions—especially at an organizational level, what we’re designing into and how we can support and enable really good choice architecture—we’re really only solving part of the challenge. It’s in some ways a natural evolution of what the field is good at and how to expand upon that.

Hear more from Ruth on Wednesday, April 20 at noon CT in “Designing Decision-making: A Conversation about Behavioral Design,” when she discusses behavioral design with ID alum Asmina Shaikh, Senior Behavioral Designer at McKinsey & Company, in a Zoom conversation suited for those new to the field.