BITE Focus

Nudgestock 2018

From biomimicry to collective intelligence, the speakers at Nudgestock delivered a similar message, that the world as a whole is greater and more fascinating than the sum of its parts.

Kara Melchers

Managing Editor, BITE


Nudgestock - Ogilvy Change

For the last six years, Nudgestock has taken place on a clifftop pavilion in Folkstone. Much like the festival goers of its 1969 namesake, we were there to expand our minds. Joni Mitchell described Woodstock as, “a spark of beauty where half-a-million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.” From biomimicry to collective intelligence, the speakers at Nudgestock delivered a similar message, that the world as a whole is greater and more fascinating than the sum of its parts.

The day was curated by Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy. His introduction dove headfirst into the term ‘behavioural science,’ “in science the opposite of a good idea is usually wrong. In real life the opposite of a good idea is possibly another good idea.” He warned against drawing conclusions from data without context and advised the audience to look for rules, not patterns.

From architects to economists, this event was about the cross-pollination of ideas. Here’s a snapshot of our favourite talks from the day.

Biomimetic Office,
Biomimetic Office

Michael Pawlyn, Exploration Architecture

Visitors to the Biomimicry Museum would enter by walking over an oasis garden supplied with water captured from the air by a roof surface inspired by camel’s nostrils and the ancient art of ice-making. This project in the Middle East, although unfortunately never built, is an ode to a biologically inspired design approach known as biomimicry. And Michael Pawlyn has built his architecture studio around this practice. His Biomimetic Office design found inspiration from spookfish, stone plants and brittlestars for daylighting solutions, and bird skulls, cuttlebone, sea urchins and giant amazon water lilies for the structure. Pawlyn’s curiosity to examine systems in nature and transform them for human needs makes you wonder why designers don’t spend all of their time in the natural world.

Dawn of Social Networks: Hadza Tribe
Dawn of Social Networks: Hadza Tribe

Nicholas A. Christakis, Sociologist and Physician

It’s perhaps not surprising that social networks influence our thoughts. This talk was the summary of ten years work putting networks under a social magnifying glass. When modelled, our familiar online networks have exactly the same social structure as the African Hadza roving hunter-gatherers. This showed Christakis and his team that social influence is imbedded within human genetics. The degrees of influence – induction, homophily and context - are the same wherever you come from. Giving the example of carbon, in one formation the atoms create graphite, in another they make a diamond. Christakis argued that connections really matter. Putting the right people in the right place can achieve more productive outcomes. Done on a global level this could really influence life for everyone on earth.

Caroline Webb
Caroline Webb

Caroline Webb, Author and Business Consultant

In her bestselling book, How to Have a Good Day, Webb argues that insights from behavioural economics, psychology and neuroscience can, and should, be used to improve our working lives. Our brain directs attention to things that match what’s already at the top of mind, our aims, attitudes and assumptions, filtering out most other information that’s around us. But even mild stress can cause a rapid and dramatic loss of pre-frontal cognitive ability, the area we use to think. We can boost competence and control by reciting what it is we know and what we can shape. In the end we only tend to remember the most intense moment in a day and the way it ends, the peak end effect. By writing three good things that happened at the end of every day, it’s possible to change the way the memory of our day gets stored. behavioural insights

Kees Oomen and Johann Rozario,

The biggest revelation was discovering that when says there’s only one room left, they’re telling the truth. Oomen and Rozario, part of’s dedicated behavioural insights team, were on stage to talk about the tricks they use to help, and keep, people on their booking journey. Scarcity – the desire to have things that are rare. Authority – our desire to follow an expert. Social proof – how we want to follow others. Consistency – taking into account our search behaviour and presenting us the most relatable options. Similarity – showing what people like us also liked.

Other speakers included

Professor Ruth Morgan (MA (Oxon), D.Phil) is Professor of Crime and Forensic Science at UCL

John Kay, Economist & Author

Mark Brooks, IDEA (Internet Dating Excellence Association)

Jennie Roper, Kinetic


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