Top critical review
Great concept; good execution
Reviewed in the United States on November 29, 2014
I bought this after hearing Martin interviewed on the HBR podcast. And I love the concept - there are many ways to use observations from human behavioral science to direct best practice. Moreover, many of these are easy to implement and have pronounced effects - hence the concept of the "small BIG".
The organization of the book is not its strength. The chapters are really short vignette case studies designed by the authors to be digested in tiny chunks. Really tiny chunks. Unfortunately, this does not allow for serious discussion of the diversity of applications of each observation or the specific limitations of each approach. In one example, British taxpayers (apparently often quite delinquent in prompt tax payments) were reminded that the majority of taxpayers do remit taxes on time, and the effects were real. However, there is less question as to whether this would work in different cultures, under different tax systems, or other related concerns. Will this approach really change the fates of accounts receivable professionals?
That said, some of the lessons are fantastic. As an administrator in medicine, I was fascinating at the approach taken to patient "no-shows", which have a double-whammy effect. First they create situations in which medical professionals are deployed but not reimbursed. Just as importantly, they prevent patients from being seen! If one calls to make an appointment that is booked by a patient who then no-shows, the patient who wishes to come in cannot receive care yet is blocked by a patient who has not used that slot. And in most markets, access is at a premium. I will not give away the authors' intervention, but it is shockingly simple - so shocking that I would like to really see whether it works.
In any case, this book is certainly worth a read, and I would read other books by the same authors. I just wish that they had selected fewer topics on which to delve more deeply rather than to create a well-meaning, but underdeveloped, sampler.