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Nudging Strategy for Water Management: "Dr. Rajesh K. Pillania Professor of Strategy, MDI, Gurgaon"

The 2018 edition of the UN World Water Development report stated that nearly 6 billion peoples will suffer from clean water scarcity by 2050. This is the result of increasing demand for water, reduction of water resources, and increasing pollution of water, driven by dramatic population and economic growth.

Education Post18 August 2020 04:40

Nudging Strategy for Water Management: "Dr. Rajesh K. Pillania Professor of Strategy, MDI, Gurgaon"

‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world.’ –            Mahatma Gandhi

The magnitude of water crisis

Water is essential for survivial of homo sapiens, and its scarcity is a big crisis that we are going to face, if we donot take effective steps to prevent it. Unfortunately, many of us are not even aware of its magnitude and severity.

The 2018 edition of the UN World Water Development report stated that nearly 6 billion peoples will suffer from clean water scarcity by 2050. This is the result of increasing demand for water, reduction of water resources, and increasing pollution of water, driven by dramatic population and economic growth. It is suggested that this number may be an underestimation, and scarcity of clean water by 2050 may be worse as the effects of the three drivers of water scarcity, as well as of unequal growth, accessibility and needs, are underrated(BorettiandRosa, 2019). Globally, 844 million people lack access to clean water. Without clean, easily accessible water, families and communities are locked in poverty for generations. Children drop out of school and parents struggle to make a living (World Vision, 2020).

The limitations of making big changes

Change need not to be always very big and painful. It can start small and can lead to big outcomes. Many change strategies fail because they don’t take into account the behavioral aspects. One of the persisting problems in strategy is the huge failure rates of productive thought. As shown by McKinsey research in ‘The Strategy Beyond Hockey Stick’, 9 out of 10 strategies fail. Research in habits also lead to big failures of trying to make big changes in behaviors. What works is making small changes in habits.

Concept of nudging

Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein show that no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way, and that we are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions. But by knowing how people think, we can use sensible “choice architecture” to nudge people toward the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society, without restricting our freedom of choice.

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Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein show that no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way, and that we are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions. But by knowing how people think, we can use sensible “choice architecture” to nudge people toward the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society, without restricting our freedom of choice.

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Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein  gave the concept of Nudge Theory. Nudge theory is based upon the idea that by shaping the environment, also known as the choice architecture, one can influence the likelihood that one option is chosen over another by individuals.

Common ‘nudges’:

The design of menus gets you to eat (and spend) more. For example, lining up all prices on either side of the menu leads many consumers to simply pick the cheapest item. On the other hand, discretely listing prices at the end of food descriptions lets people read about the appetizing options first and then see prices.

‘Flies’ in urinals improve, well, aim. When Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport was faced with the not uncommon issue of dirty urinals, they chose a unique solution by painting flies in the (center of) commodes and men obligingly aimed at the insects, reducing spillage by 80 percent (Thaler & Sunstein, 2009). The ideas from Nudge theory are applied by many governments.

Nudging strategy for water management

There can be various strategies at various levels for water management. In this article we want to focus on nudging strategy as it really works. Governments, businesses and civil society should go with nudging strategy, creating choice articteure and focusing on making small positive change in habits of citizens, for example, research can be carried out for optimal amount of water requirements for various activities in various walks of life such as government organisations, business organitions, civil society, households, farming, schools and public places etc. Based on this, the Government can create a choice artictecture that needs to be used by companies supplying water equipments. That is, if research shows one bucket of water is sufficient for one bath, than the shower stops automatically for a minute as this is the time for filling a bucket of water. If research shows one minute of running tap-water is enough for hand-washing, than the tap in wash basin stops automatically after a minute of running. If three hours of water supply is enough for irrigating a farm, then the water supply in that farm automatically stops after three hours.  Equipmemnt manufacturers need to do a bit of innovation to create such choice architecture giving the user a change in settings options depending on the requirements of the user. This might look like a minor change, but when put together and executed judiciasiouly, it can lead to a lot of water conservation in various walks of life.

All organisations and people need to be sansitied with the concept of nudging for water and best possible choice architecture shall be created by them for saving water wastage.

Conclusion

Water crisis is a big crisis that needs to be recognized and overcome. There can be various strategies for it. Nudging can be a good strategy to make a big change in a small way by creating choice architectures that leds to water conservation in various walks of life.

 

References:

Boretti, A., Rosa, L. Reassessing the projections of the World Water Development Report. npj Clean Water 2, 15 (2019).

Thaler, R. H., &Sunstein, C. R. (2009). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. Penguin.

World Vision (2020). Global water crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help. Website https://www.worldvision.org/clean-water-news-stories/global-water-crisis-facts (Accessed on July 1, 2020).

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