Post tagged with "peer pressure"

Our Thinking

Alex Laskey tells TED 2013: “Our most overlooked sustainable energy resource is in this room”

  • By Dan Yates
  • June 3, 2013

Today I am immensely excited to share my co-founder Alex Laskey’s TED talk, entitled “The Psychology of Saving Energy,” delivered earlier this year in Long Beach. On the TED 2013 mainstage, Alex shares our story and discusses how the world can harness behavioral science to save energy at scale.

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Our Thinking

Opower President Alex Laskey takes the stage at TED to explain the psychology of saving energy

  • By Carly Llewellyn
  • February 28, 2013

Yesterday, our President Alex Laskey took the stage at TED2013 — the annual conference of movers and shakers, who assemble to give awe-inspiring lectures about their ideas and vision for the world. Alex fit right in, sharing his insights on the “Psychology of Saving Energy,” and how Opower has tapped into it to help customers save more than $220 million on their energy bills in the past five years.

Alex was in great company: earlier in the day, Google co-founder Sergey Brin gave a presentation about the revolutionary Google Glass. Also in the spotlight was famed entrepreneur Elon Musk, who spoke about his groundbreaking initiatives on electric cars and space travel.

Alex Laskey at TED2013

Opower President Alex Laskey on stage at TED2013

Alex’s TED talk focused on the science behind Opower’s approach, in particular highlighting the work of the behavioral scientists Robert Cialdini and Wesley Schultz. In the early 2000s, Cialdini and Schultz set out to determine what motivates people to decrease their energy use, and arrived at an eye-catching conclusion. They found that one of the strongest motivators of energy conservation was giving people information on how their energy usage compares with that of similar homes in their neighborhood — a sort of peer pressure.

Behavioral science has always been central to Opower’s efforts to make the world more energy efficient, and the results of our behavior-based programs have been dramatic: in January, we achieved a milestone of achieving two terawatt hours of energy savings — enough to take all the homes in a city the size of Sacramento (~500,000 people) off the electric grid for a year.

Speaking at TED2013 was an exciting honor for Alex and for Opower. We can’t wait to share the full video of his talk in the near future.

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Want to bet that you can lower your energy bill?

  • By Barry Fischer
  • September 6, 2012

A new viewpoint article published this week in the MIT Technology Review proposes that if you want to achieve your personal goals (such as becoming more energy efficient), then you may want to consider pulling out your wallet…and betting on yourself.

The article highlights the approach being taken by a new company called GymPact, which allows people to bet on their ability to work out at the gym (or run/walk) a certain number of days per week. If you slack off and miss a workout, you get penalized (e.g. your credit card is charged $5). But if you meet your gym-going goal, then GymPact pays you a small prize. The money that’s awarded to the gym-loyalists comes out of the pool of money accumulated from the slackers. With this incentive framework in place, the company reports that 86% of people who enroll in GymPact end up doing the workouts they commit to.

Underlying the GymPact motivational model is a key principle in behavioral economics, called “loss aversion.”  The principle says that people hate losing something even more than they like winning it. The chief scientific officer at Gympact explains the concept: you’d be excited if you reached in your pocket and found an extra $10; but that excitement pales in comparison to the frustration you’d feel if you expected to find $10 in your pocket, but instead reached in and found a hole.

The behavioral-science underpinnings of GymPact immediately struck a chord with the Outlier team. Here at Opower we are constantly thinking about how different kinds of “nudges” can encourage people to achieve their energy efficiency goals. For example, we have found that telling people how their monthly energy usage compares to the average usage in their neighborhood prompts them to conserve energy, though a sort of peer pressure mechanism.

Do you think the GymPact model really works? Would it work for setting and meeting energy conservation goals? Would you bet on your ability to use less energy in 2013 than you did in 2012?

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