Immersive Field Course: UK and the Netherlands; Behavioral Insights - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Immersive Field Course: UK; Behavioral Insights

Course Number 6022

Associate Professor Michael Luca
Four on-campus sessions on Tuesday evenings, from 5:45-7:00 PM on September 25, October 23, November 13, and December 4, 2018
Travel dates: Arrival, January 9, departure on Saturday, January 19, 2019 (NOTE: the immersion departure location will be from Paris, France. For students who want to return to London, there are easy train and flight options from Paris to London.)
Program fee & travel costs: See details on Course Credit and Fees
Credits: 3.0
Enrollment: Limited to 25 MBA students, 20 students from HKS

Career Focus

This EC Field Course will create an experiential learning experience, and will appeal to students who are interested in obtaining a basic understanding of behavioral economics, and mastering knowledge of choice architecture, or "nudging."

Educational Objectives

The development of the concept of choice architecture has been a major breakthrough in the social sciences. Integrating insights from behavior economics and psychology, choice architecture — or nudges - can help people make better decisions by changing the way in which choices are presented (Thaler and Sunstein 2008). Given their relatively low cost and ease of implementation, the use of choice architecture has become increasingly popular among governments and organizations in recent years.

Established in 2010 and directed by David Halpern, the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) was set up in the heart of the British Government to apply insights from behavioral economics and psychology to policymaking. The team has pioneered the use of behavioral insights in policy, and scored numerous successes across the government policy spectrum, including tax collection, charitable giving, education, and employment. More recently, the team has begun advising other countries, including Singapore and Australia, on the similar issues. 

Since the inception of BIT, a rapidly growing number of businesses and governments have created their own behavioral insights teams. For example, a recent count found over 100 behavioral insights teams operating in governments around the world, all created in just the past few years.

Through project work and exposure to organizations that have successfully applied behavioral insights, this course will help students to develop a toolkit for applying behavioral insights to improve decision making.

Course Content and Organization

Overview and Introduction:The course will involve on-campus class sessions, and a trip to London followed by a short visit to Paris. The majority of the course will take place in London, where students will have the opportunity to directly apply behavioral insights in projects with clients. There will also be opportunities to gain exposure to organizations that have successfully implemented nudges, engage with London-based business and policymakers, and participate in cultural activities. The course will end with a short trip to Paris, where students will gain further perspectives of organizations and policymakers who are utilizing behavioral insights to improve decision-making.

Projects: All students will be working with clients in the UK. Clients will define a project challenging the project team to use behavioral insights to help solve a problem the organization is facing.  The project will include proposing solutions to the problem, and designing a test to explore whether the proposed change is effective. The basic idea is that we are going to learn from the most visible successes in this realm, and apply our knowledge in new projects. 

Beyond reading, class, and travel time, students should expect to spend 30-50 hours on the project in the fall, and then turn their project into a written report by the end of January.

Four sample projects from past classes are available at

Presentation and Briefing to Your Client

Your assignment is to produce a presentation and briefing report to your client that provides guidance on using and evaluating behavioral insights, applied to a specific problem.



The Immersive Field Course Model

Immersive Field Courses are designed to offer second-year students an off-campus, experiential learning opportunity during the January term. A cornerstone of these courses is the expertise of faculty, who develop course content focused on teaching objectives that are met primarily through student-centered active learning opportunities including project work, site visits and participating in discussions with key contacts. As such, these courses provide students with an opportunity to apply first-hand the knowledge and skills gained from their on-campus MBA coursework in an off-campus setting.

Due to the nature of Immersive Field Courses students may be required to sign legal agreements requested by project partner organizations. Additional requirements and documentation may also be requested of students by organizations.

Course Credit and Fees

Students who successfully complete this course (including participation in all on-campus sessions during the Fall and Spring terms) will earn 3.0 HBS course credits, or 4.0 HKS course credits (2.0 HKS credits per semester)

HBS will provide in-country logistics for this course (including accommodations, select meals, and local travel) but students will need to contribute a fee of $2,500 toward defraying a part of these costs. In addition, students are responsible for their round-trip air travel and any costs associated with required visa documentation and immunizations. HBS students who have applied for financial aid may apply for additional financial support to participate in this course. Please see the HBS Financial Aid website (login required) for more information on financial support for Immersive Field Courses.

For detailed information about what the course program fee includes and excludes, as well as information about student accommodations, please visit the GEO website or email


Throughout the course, we will provide recommended readings to help participants familiarize themselves with behavioral economics and experimental methods.
Students looking for additional background might also consider the following:
Nudging by Government: Progress, Impact and Lessons Learnt (BSPA report by Michael Sanders and David Halpern)
Behavioural Insights and Public Policy: Lessons from Around the World (OECD report)
Guide to Developing Behavioural Interventions for Randomised Controlled Trials: Nine Guiding Questions (Phil Ames and Michael Hiscox) Note: Phil was a former student in this course.