BADFest: The making of

Published by Andrea Day on

BADfest...the making of

Table of contents

What do you do when:

… your team has had two years in lockdown?

…your new people have never met some of their colleagues face to face?

…you need to help your team experience behavioural science for themselves, as it’s a core part of your strategy?

You want to say thank you for surviving a pandemic, for bringing your best to your role and for being a BAD’un?

Well naturally, you run your very own learning festival on a beautiful campsite in the middle of Sussex for two days.

And yes, that’s precisely what we did.

For some, this might seem a bit out of the ordinary, but for the BAD team it represented an opportunity to do something we have wanted to do for a long time and that’s kind of how we roll  ̶ because we love to design experiences for people that change behaviour, even if we’ve never tried it before. Doing a festival gave us an opportunity to innovate, experiment and enjoy watching the behaviour of our team change over the course of the two days. I guess you could say that the BAD experience went live.


The theme of the event was ‘Together’. This was what the team wanted most from the time. The opportunity to be together, to talk, to understand each other on a personal level, rather than at a colleague level, as well as to learn and to have fun and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

big group outside gathering around campfire in sunshine

The whole event was crafted with input from our behavioural science team. We knew that, with the team having members who’d never met before, social identity was going to be important: “Will I fit when I meet everyone in person for the first time?”

Behavioural scientists talk about ways in which you can influence the person and the environment to affect behaviour change. So our first simple environment change was to ask everyone to wear name badges. For new people, it made saying hi a little less awkward and they could immediately interact with others.  

Add to that, unlike events where the fun typically comes after the work, we deliberately switched the agenda, we made sure that the social identity piece came first by having a series of fun activities to help unite the group.

One example of that was to have everyone dancing together̶  Only this time they were learning hip hop. Unlikely to be something many people had done before and an opportunity for a new social norm to be created for BAD people, in that we all learned basic hip hop moves, together.

We moved interchangeably amongst each other behaving in ways we might not have imagined we would, had we have been told beforehand. We became one, helped by the power of dance, everyone behaving in line with the music and choreography ̶ all helped by a hip hop dance teacher who was willing to bring into their experience. And let’s remember that hip hop as a dance genre started as a way for humans to communicate, through dance.

big team in marquee doing a dance lesson

A second experience was eating We didn’t just have a barbecue for everyone, we wanted to create an environment where people could bring themselves to the event, to celebrate their unique identity. Food from your home, bought us a feast from all over the globe. The team celebrated their personal heritage by bringing their favourite foods and the stories they related to, increasing the opportunities for people to talk and find common ground in food, or countries: Can I see people like me in the ?

As the night played out, our experience was further enhanced by thunder and lightning. It was an experience, but not one we had any control over. But the pictures are awesome!

Behavioural science in practise

Day 2 – saw new agenda items with more behavioural science input. We wanted to give the team the opportunity to live behavioural science as opposed to just hearing about it. So we relived the ‘origami cranes’ experiment, as once conducted by Dan Ariely and his peers. Dan had noticed that he didn’t enjoy building an IKEA chest of drawers, but once he finished he noticed that he felt a sense of pride – he put more value on the unit as a result of having built it himself. So he and a few colleagues conducted an experiment where participants were asked to make origami cranes and then put a value on their work. The harder they were to build, the more they valued the cranes.  

The team was split into groups and then asked to build origami pagodas. It wasn’t easy, as evidenced by a few choice words coming from some groups, especially when we found out that some groups had better (i.e. more accurate) instructions than others! The pagodas were finally built, but the experiment wasn’t over. Without us realising, the experiment carried on when one of our behavioural science colleagues unfolded them all and asked us to start again! Naturally we were very upset to see our work ’destroyed’ in front of us, showing the value we placed on them was great. Just like Dan’s experiment, this is now known as the IKEA effect, which is how we tend to like things more if we’ve expended effort to create them.

two team members sat on a bench chatting under trees

Our next experience was to have a fireside chat with Dr Thomas Hills, a professor of Data and Psychology at the University of Warwick. We talked about designing learning interventions, we talked about high value content and people’s behaviours towards content, we discussed generational differences to applications and more. Thomas had observed us during our earlier experiment and given us his observations along with our two amazing behavioural science consultants, Charlotte and Elaine.

The day continued with more food, more chat and more fun, culminating in us all sitting together on the grass as one big team.

You could see the enjoyment on people’s faces, how much they had visibly relaxed into the day and had fun with their newfound colleagues.

So, as we look back on BADFest, there will always be things we’d tweak.

Was it successful as an experience? Well, that can be judged by a question I was asked the following day…

“That was awesome… can we make it three days next time?”

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