The Cognition Company helps businesses to grow using behavioural, design and data science.
These three disciplines are the foundation of our approach because together, they can help us understand behaviour to create products and platforms that effectively respond to what people want and need.
In practice, this involves using a mix of methods during research and development. For example, using observation to understand how people behave in different contexts, using experiments to understand what causes – or how to cause – a specific behaviour to occur, or using regression analysis to measure and predict real world behaviour from large datasets.
Making these methods work together is difficult but worthwhile. Each has its own process, language, skills, philosophy and tolerance for ambiguity.
My background is in both behavioural science and design. I previously set up the Behavioural Design Lab, a partnership between Warwick Business School and Design Council, and wrote at the time about how the two can work together (and more recently here). Many others have been putting this principle into practice for years – the early work of Final Mile was groundbreaking – while there are others in behavioural science who are now beginning to see “the future”. This is great progress.
Fundamentally, if you want to take a mixed methods approach, you need to 1) build a team with a range of skills and 2) develop a way of working together that reconciles any differences. This is what we’re doing at The Cognition Company through our hiring strategy (we’re soon to announce some new hires) and the development of the Behaviour Change Playbook.
The Behaviour Change Playbook has six steps, each consisting of a question and a series of prompts. Aligned with each step is a range of different methods to help answer the given question. For example, to answer the question of who needs to do what to achieve a specific goal in the Behaviour step, it may be necessary to observe and map people’s interactions with a product or service, while also analysing historical data to look at usage patterns.
Many of the companies we partner with are scaling technology companies and digital technology in particular is both a product of and perfect test bed for a mixed methods approach. Digital apps, platforms, products and services have benefited hugely from applied psychology and generate a vast amount of data, taking us well beyond the days of market research and focus groups.
We’ll continue to talk about the team we’re building and share practical examples of the work we’re doing as we further develop our approach.