Using persuasion science in practice

December 2017

Understanding the perceptions and motivations of people in the workplace can be applied to many aspects of management, at the individual, team and organisational level. Collecting, analysing and interpreting behavioural insights allows us to consider different viewpoints and potential barriers to successful change. Therefore, the use of psychological models can arm us with additional evidence-based management strategies.

A recent scan of the literature conducted by Spoonful of Sugar has shown multiple gaps in the synthesis, scrutiny and reporting of management science and management psychology. We aimed to investigate the evidence for and benefits of applying psychology-based theories in a broad range of management disciplines including human resources, gratuity, and employee performance. Despite the essential role of management in day-to-day business, there were few reports evidencing practice in relation to psychology-based or theoretical models, which proved it difficult to draw conclusions. The lack of case-studies or analyses were supplemented by opinion articles, which can provide a false-impression of what defines and ensures good practice. This contributes to a second problem: we are unable to truly evaluate hypotheses in management and organisation science without sound evidence, so best practice remains unclear. For example, in managerial psychology, the relevance and utility of Herzberg’s two-factor theory (1959) is still debated, despite widespread application. This theory suggests that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are influenced by independent and separate factors. Much criticism about its original methodology and limited context remain1,2,3. The power of academia and research in management can address these issues and provide clarity on best practice.

The absence of high quality research in management psychology and science can be detrimental to the educational, academic and practical applications. We need higher quality and more evidence to evaluate hypotheses and to truly understand how we can objectively measure and enhance the way we manage people, processes and organisations. Given the robust scientific methods we can now access and the technological advances in data collection, surveying and analysis, we are well-placed to understand the impact of science and psychology on management.

What’s your experience of using behavioural science in management? Now is your chance to contribute to the knowledge and science behind management –being able to capture people’s voices and experiences can help advance this field. Spoonful of Sugar are calling for research papers and case studies as part of the conference track ‘Using Persuasion Science in Practice’ at EURAM 2018, deadline 10 January 2018. Please contact or for more information.

1 Herzberg, Frederick; Mausner, Bernard; Snyderman, Barbara B. (1959). The Motivation to Work (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley.

2 Bassett‐Jones, N. and Lloyd, G. C. (2005) Does Herzberg’s motivation theory have staying power? Journal of Management Development, Vol. 24 Issue: 10, pp.929-943

3 Malik, M. E., and Naeem B. (2013) Towards Understanding Controversy on Herzberg Theory of Motivation. World Applied Sciences Journal 24 (8): 1031-1036, 2013