A presentation at the curiosity incubator event

In late January 2023, I attend­ed the pilot Curios­i­ty Incu­ba­tor hosted by Bridget Gildea, Vis­it­ing Scholar at the Intel­lec­tu­al Forum, Jesus College, Cam­bridge.  Bridget’s big idea is to create an “Accel­er­a­tor for Good” where inno­va­tion is coupled with behav­iour­al insights, so that solu­tions actu­al­ly work for the humans that need them.

This intrigued me! I work at the inter­sec­tion of inno­va­tion, scale and behav­iour­al science, which is why I was there.  My work is cre­at­ing a behav­iour­al science research plat­form — Gorilla — that is used glob­al­ly to test and under­stand human behav­iour and develop inter­ven­tions that help humans succeed.

My journey into facil­i­tat­ing a psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly healthy world started 14 years ago.  I started with a small idea: study psy­chol­o­gy and research evi­denced informed ways of teach­ing math­e­mat­ics.  I’ve written about this in more detail here: https://jbcole.co.uk/blog/industry-interview-jo-evershed-ceo-of-caulron-science/.

But when I grad­u­at­ed uni­ver­si­ty, it was clear to me that devel­op­men­tal exper­i­men­tal psy­chol­o­gists were crip­pled by their tools.  Until they could get their research online and at scale in a format that kids would engage with, progress would be con­strained.  We just cannot get the high quality data we need suf­fi­cient­ly fast to make impact­ful progress.

And this grew into a bigger idea: to create a pow­er­ful and easy-to-use behav­iour­al research plat­form (Gorilla) so that behav­iour­al sci­en­tists across the globe can create their exper­i­ments with ease and collect data at unprece­dent­ed pace and scale.  I’ve written about this in more detail here:  https://www.moneyonthemind.org/post/interview-with-jo-evershed.

With Gorilla, research that used to take months can now be done in a couple of days.

Like any good entre­pre­neur, I set a vision and some targets — and we’ve achieved them!  The Gorilla plat­form is used across the world to help behav­iour­al sci­en­tists measure human behav­iour at scale.  We have an amazing team of 10 people and over 300 uni­ver­si­ties using Gorilla.  It’s been an adven­ture!  In the last couple of years we’ve expand­ed Gorilla’s func­tion­al­i­ty so that it now sup­ports mul­ti­play­er exper­i­ments, gam­i­fied exper­i­ments and shop­ping sim­u­la­tions.  And so now, psy­chol­o­gists that study maths edu­ca­tion can (and do!) create maths exper­i­ments and inter­ven­tions that have been sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly shown to work. Yay!

So, now I need a new Big Hairy Auda­cious Goal (BHAG).  As the Cheshire Cat says, if you don’t know where you want to get to, it doesn’t much matter which way you go, does it?

But how do you find the time and space to create a new vision?  Our lives are all so busy, and between running a company, 2 kids and ageing parents — I have very little space to just sit and think.  I was musing on this problem while hur­ry­ing my kids into their coats to get them to school,  when Bridget called and sug­gest­ed I come to the Curios­i­ty Incu­ba­tor pilot programme.

I have a soft spot for serendip­i­ty, so I said yes!

And what a great deci­sion that was.

Bridget had expert­ly crafted a series of ses­sions on a range of topics:  Reimag­in­ing Inno­va­tion, Fun­da­men­tal of Behav­iour­al Design, How to Design for Good, Value Cre­ation vs Profit Cre­ation and the unWEIRDi­fi­ca­tion of behav­iour­al science.

From Reimag­in­ing Inno­va­tion, I was remind­ed how essen­tial user research is in all aspects of product devel­op­ment.  Not just the big deci­sions, but also the tiny bar­ri­ers we can inad­ver­tent­ly put in people’s way.

From Fun­da­men­tals of Behav­iour­al Design I was remind­ed how essen­tial it is to design my life and work to make it easy for System 1 — our auto­mat­ic deci­sion based system — to succeed.

From Value Cre­ation Vs Profit Cre­ation I was remind­ed that the two aren’t mutu­al­ly exclu­sive.  As my coach says, your profit is just 10% of the value you create in the world and it allows you to con­tin­ue cre­at­ing more value for more people at a greater scale.

Mixed in with the lecture was time for reflec­tion and dis­cus­sion with some extra­or­di­nar­i­ly inter­est­ing people.  And 24 hours later, I had a new Big Hairy Auda­cious Goal that I can aim for.

In 25 years, I’d like every organ­i­sa­tion to have a Behav­iour­al Science depart­ment — as intrin­sic to its mission as Finance and HR are today.


Because this gives us another bottom line.  Does the organ­i­sa­tion deliver value to the humans it serves?

Cap­i­tal­ism has deliv­ered a lot of value to the world.  But it’s hard to escape the notion that we’ve created a world that’s good for money and not a world that’s good for humans.  So many of the chal­lenges we face need human solu­tions.  Climate change.  Obesity.  Lone­li­ness.  Maths anxiety.  Tax evasion.  Lit­ter­ing.  To name just a few.

These chal­lenges need wide­spread col­lab­o­ra­tion and — in my opinion — a behav­iour­al lens.  That way, the poten­tial solu­tions can be tested in dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments, and the most effec­tive solu­tion scaled. 

So that’s my new focus:

That’s what I took away from Bridget Gildea’s Curios­i­ty Incu­ba­tor — clarity of thought and a new mission. Wouldn’t it be amazing if across the board we col­lect­ed behav­iour­al data and made deci­sions based on data not ideology?

If you want to have a pos­i­tive impact in the world, and your chal­lenge involves humans, the Curios­i­ty Incu­ba­tor is a great way to give your­self the space to think dif­fer­ent­ly about your challenge. 

Jo Ever­shed

Jo is the CEO and co-founder of Caul­dron and Gorilla. Her mission is to provide behav­iour­al sci­en­tists with the tools needed to improve the scale and impact of the evi­dence-based inter­ven­tions that benefit society. 

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