Shanghai Studio Hosts Roundtable with Dan Ariely on Behavior-Oriented Design’s Impact on Workplace Well-Being

February 1, 2019

On January 21, 2019, Woods Bagot’s Shanghai studio invited Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University in Durham, N.C. and founder of research group the Center of Advanced Hindsight, to a roundtable discussion with end users, big data providers and other consultants in an effort to understand what makes employees care about their work. In his research, Ariely had designed a series of experiments to better understand what makes them more efficient and unlock the roots of intrinsic motivation. The Shanghai design leaders first encountered Ariely’s work in a previous event they hosted centered on hospice design.

The conversation focused on the impact of behavior-oriented design on workplace well-being in multiple scales including urban design, architectural design and interior design.

Ariely shared his theories and experiments about employees’ tendencies in a working environment. He believes that rather than paying cash bonuses, companies should reward their personnel by giving them insights, trusting them, challenging them to increase employee engagement and employee performance. His theory enables a lot of companies to make the better-informed decisions, especially in regard to Human Resource Policies.

Other roundtable speakers included Director Pearl Huang; Principal Ian Png; Regional Retail Sector Leader Billy Ip; CEO of Shanghai West Hongqiao Navigation Yang Miaoqian; Jin Chen Group’s Design Director Chen Yao; Principal Liu Guyi of Metro Data Tech; AHTI’s Executive Director Michiel Heidenrijk; and Laurens van Hoorn, the Managing Director of AHTI.

“Innovation requires new knowledge, no matter [if you are a] behaviorist, big data analyst, or designer, we all try to improve the human experience with our expertise. Cross-discipline opportunities give us new ways of thinking to explore new design methodology,” Pearl Huang, Director, said of the presented research.

An experiment by Dr. Jiang Tiang—Principal of the Center of Advanced Hindsight—helped to explain the connection between architecture and behavioral economics. In the study, a group of researchers put colorful footprints on the stairs of an office building and found that more people chose to walk up and down the stairs instead of using the elevator. When they interviewed the research subjects, most of them said they did not realize that the footprints influenced them. The experiment indicated that those actions are a result of behavioral and spatial design.

Principals Ian Png and Billy Ip were interested in what factors improve corporate companies’ performance and how office spaces affect employee’s interactions and habits. Ian believes that because the office is an extension of one’s home, and most employees tend to spend a majority of their time in the office, they need better design.