I admit it. There is a part of me that is an ‘old school’ economist – one who revels in the beauty of Swan-Solow diagrams, Pareto Efficiency, Utility Theory and, above all, markets behaving rationally. The downside is that I have invariably struggled to answer the questions my brother would ask me anytime we discussed the economy – variations on the theme of why none of this theory translated into real life. A fair question, and one I could only ever answer with a throw-away about ‘people getting in the way of markets’.  

So, you can imagine my delight when I was introduced to the world of Behavioural Economics, or Behavioural Insights, by the likes of Daniel Kahneman, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. A world where I could satisfy the economics nerd within while gaining a greater understanding of exactly how and why people got in the way of markets. 

In addition to being a self-confessed economics nerd, I spent over 15 years as an Intelligence Officer in the Australian Army. My passion for national security naturally combined with my growing love of behavioural insights, and several years ago I began to explore the idea that behavioural insights could go beyond policy and economic theory, and that those of us within the national security community could use nudge theory in support of national security objectives. 

In mid 2017 I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet with Professor Michael Hiscox, an Economist from Harvard University who was brought to Australia to help establish the Behavioural Economics team at PM&C. I requested the meeting because I wanted to talk to him about my inkling of an idea that we might be able to ‘nudge for national security’. Also present at the meeting was Sendhil Mullainathan, author of Scarcity and also a Professor of Economics at Harvard. This meeting was a real turning point for me, and I hope to never forget how good it felt to have these two great minds agree that my inkling of an idea was something worth pursuing. 

The next step in my journey has been made possible by my current employer, John Glenn of Kiah Consulting. A fellow ‘misbehaver’, John has supported my idea of nudging behavioural insights beyond policy and economics and applying it in the national security space. On the 21stof November Kiah Consulting will be hosting a symposium on ‘nudging for national security’.  Professor Hiscox has accepted our offer to come and talk to those who are interested in finding out more, and we will hold a ‘lunch and learn’ session. The topic will be broadly one that considers the application of Behavioural Insights to Countering Violent Extremism and other Criminal Behaviour. If this excites or intrigues you, get in touch or book here…