Nudge theory is all about finding simple but effective ways that encourage individuals to take positive actions in their lives. The changes are typically small and light-touch, and therefore can be described as “nudges”. They work with the reality of human nature and
the way people react in real world environments.
Ideas drawn from nudge theory and related behavioural sciences can help in the design of effective mentoring programmes. They can point to features that encourage effective participation, overcome inertia and put individuals on a route to realising the benefits.
Timely prompts have been shown to be effective in various settings, including in the medical world. A text or email received at the right time can prompt an individual to take the necessary preparatory action.
A mentor often acts as a point of accountability for their mentee. While the will to develop new skills and achieve milestones that sit outside everyday activities can wane, small reminders from another person makes a significant difference to a learner's motivation and persistence. Mentoring meetings set specific time frames within which milestones need to be achieved, and a quick message from a mentor can 'nudge' a mentee into action. Where mentoring is an addition to other learning and development activity its value can be measured in the consistent progress of the learners vs those who do not have that level of accountability.
Nudge theory also applies to the way a digital system can support the success of a mentoring relationship. One simple example of the ways the Wisetree mentoring platform uses nudge theory to promote engagement is an email prompt sent one day ahead of each mentoring meeting reminding participants about the upcoming meeting. This simple automation encourages completion of interim actions and engenders a positive approach to the meeting itself.
Another area of nudge theory is to encourage action by creating a set of positive images
around a desired behaviour. The Wisetree platform builds on this idea by giving people
digital badges for completing significant steps in the mentoring process. This creates a
feel good factor about an individual’s participation in the program and encourages the
investment of further time and effort.
These may be simple features, but they help to get the mentoring program accepted and used, a necessary step to realising the benefits.
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