The challenge of scaling behaviour

The Voltage Effect is a great read for those who are sceptical that behavioural interventions can work. By the time you finish the book you will have more confidence that there are ways to scale, although still sceptical and more aware of the many barriers and traps that may lie in your way.

The first part of the book focuses on the sometimes more and sometimes less predictable things that go wrong, covering the problems of false positives, understanding the audience correctly, spillover effects, and the challenge of scaling costs. There are many examples in the book and John List discusses the many cognitive biases that contribute, including confirmation bias and site selection bias (a problem with initial experiments in using norms to reduce energy consumption.

The second half of the book focuses more on approaches to avoid these pitfalls, including how to scale incentives, how to avoid the margins of a problem, knowing when to qut, and the ultimate challenge of scaling ‘culture’.

This is a great book for anyone practicing behavioural science and behaviour change.

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