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September 18, 2013

FAI Video: In Conversation with Nava Ashraf (Part 3)

By Timothy Ogden

Part of our series, In Conversation with FAI


FAI Managing Director Timothy Ogden and Harvard Business School Associate Professor Nava Ashraf continue their discussion of her commitment savings research.  In Part 3 of the conversation, they talk about product design, behavioral psychology, and more.

Transcript of the Conversation

Tim (T):  Coming back to the lockboxes, you mentioned a couple people who had really great strategies and one of the interesting things in Pascaline and Jonathan’s study was it’s a piggy bank, it’s not any different from a hole in the ground. Why did it take somebody coming in from outside to hand them a lockbox? And how much it spread once they did?  There’s lots of spill-over effects. 

Nava (N):  Yeah, absolutely.  So usually the way I design things is by looking for positive deviants in the culture that are doing them informally, and right here. When we first arrived in the Philippines, that blue box was already in [use]. I mean the box was already part of the culture, the blue box was a cooperative that was [already] doing that. So all we did was add a contract on top of that, it’s something people had. But there’s also an interaction with the delivery-side and really being able to help people recognize how much they might need something like [a commitment box], as well as just making it easy for them to do it. So, you have these positive deviants because they either have a tremendous insight around their own challenges and have a way of fixing it, or they’re just able to have that discipline to put that into [practice]. But there are all these people in the middle, who, if it was easy to get into it and easy to do it, they would do it, but otherwise they’re not going to do it. And that’s where I think technology solutions could be really helpful, particularly as we think about more and more people having mobile phones and I think this is just wide open space for that

T:  I come from something of a technology background, so I worry a lot about the –

N:  Silver bullet thing. That’s for sure. The other thing is it’s only going to work if it’s combined with a somewhat deeper…

READ THE COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT: Ashraf_Transcript_Part3_Final.pdf


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