INNOVATION vs DATING: Episode #4 – Can we really predict behaviour?


INNOVATION vs DATING: Episode #4 – Can we really predict behaviour?



Hi, I’m Astrid. I’m an organisational psychologist who specialises in anything innovation, and I’m single. Now, these two things might seem unrelated, but as you’ll see in this series, I assure you they’re not.

 I once went on a date with a guy who told me all about all the things he was going to do. It was quite the list! He was going to get really fit, eat more healthily, go back to study, drink less alcohol, buy a house, save more money…  He went on and on. I could relate to this guy. Future Astrid is pretty amazing. She calls her parents every week, packs a healthy lunch to take to work and has a ‘just in case’ umbrella in her bag. What a gal! When the conversation turned to things he had actually done, the list was much shorter. He seemed relieved when the waiter came to take our order and he could stop talking. He ordered a burger with fries and a pint.

In psychology, we have researched this phenomenon, the relationship between what people say they’ll do and what they actually do, extensively. The correlation is typically low. If you have ever decided to go to the gym and followed it up by not going to the gym, you’re probably not surprised by this fact. Yet in organisations, there is still a great reliance on survey data based on what customers say they’ll do. Questions in the survey typically go something like this:

“If we offered you product X, would you buy it?”; or “If we changed product Y would you buy it more often?”; the list goes on. “Absolutely!” Customers typically say, “without a doubt!”. However, the product is usually launched and subsequently ‘tanks’ in the market.

Measuring what customers say they will do is not something we can rely on. Intention and behaviour are two very different things. The only way to really find out what customers will do or buy, is by testing their behaviour.

If you would like to test behaviour rather than intentions, start by creating experiments for what you would like to test which force people to act rather than provide opinions.

This can be tricky at first but the reward is typically worth the effort: having evidence for how people behave is very different from having some survey results which might look promising but which are rarely a good indication of how people will actually behave! If you have any questions or would like to chat further, drop me a line at

Oh, as for my date, we both agreed we would go on another date. We each said we would organise it. That was a year ago. It will definitely happen right? After all we both said it would!

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