Financial capability organizations provide supportive financial services to millions of Americans, making a meaningful impact on countless lives. Cost-effective adjustments to their programs that account for human behavior could allow these organizations to reach even more people with their helpful services.

Putting behavioral design directly into the hands of financial capability organizations can make a wide and lasting impact on Americans’ financial well-being. That’s why we conducted an immersive, 18-month program with 11 pioneering organizations called The Behavioral Design Project for Promoting Financial Health. Funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co., this project guided financial capability practitioners from across the country through our behavioral design methodology, with each organization selecting a real problem they wanted to solve and applying behavioral design directly to it.

Included here are a few of the most important lessons participants learned about applying behavioral design for the first time:

  1. Take it one problem at a time. Examining the decision-making context illuminates discrete challenges that fuel broader problems. Hone in on a specific issue rather than trying to find a silver bullet solution.
  2. Check that you’re solving the right problem. Before designing solutions, consult data to confirm that the problem is real and widespread. You’ll avoid investing time and money solving a problem that few people have.
  3. Confront hurdles head on with your design. Start by removing unnecessary hassles or supple- menting them with a helpful intervention.
  4. Test your assumptions on the front lines. Without transparency, it’s easy to make assumptions about other people’s choices or behaviors. Test these assumptions on the front lines by experi- encing firsthand how clients interact with systems.
  5. Refine and repeat. Behavioral design is a problem-solving approach, not a one-time fix. Evaluate results, refine the design, and identify additional problems ripe for behavioral applications to continue impacting lives.

Read more about the tools to apply behavioral design by Mitra Salasel at ideas42