Striking the right balance between digitisation and humanisation is key to successful real estate project management

Real Estate Insights by Abdulaziz Al Qarra, Director of P&DS KSA

January 18, 2024

In recent years, two topics have dominated the discussion within the real estate industry – sustainability (environmental impacts and net zero emissions) and digitisation (data, robotics and artificial intelligence). While these trends are crucial for shaping the real estate industry, there is a hidden power often overlooked – the influence of behavioural economics.

Fundamentally, real estate is a people business. Therefore, understanding human behaviour and relationships and incorporating soft skills is critical for successfully delivering any related project. This is especially true for large and complex projects under development across the GCC particularly in Saudi Arabia where giga-projects like Neom and DGDA are taking place. Moreover, with major upcoming developmental activities planned in the Kingdom in the next ten years, such as World Expo 2030 and FIFA World Cup 2034, project management has become more critical than ever.

How human behaviour influences project management and delivery

Traditionally, project management within the industry has been process-driven and hierarchical, focusing more on the physical aspect of real estate than on the people involved. Hence, humanising project management involves a significant shift in approach. The changing dynamics in the industry require more attention to behaviour, relationships, decision-making biases, probability judgements, and the impact of emotions on project outcomes.

While other industries have long understood the importance of these behavioural approaches, the real estate industry has yet to apply them widely. However, the change is now inevitable with the greater use of behavioural economic strategies in project management, including leveraging social norms, framing techniques, and communication tactics to encourage collaboration, decision-making and adherence to project objectives.

How a behavioural approach can benefit project delivery

The most significant benefit of adopting a more human approach is to enhance the decision-making process. Techniques such as anchoring, choice architecture and nudges allow project management teams to make more effective and efficient decisions.

JLL research on how human behaviour affects businesses explains the situation and highlights actions companies take to keep employees engaged and connected to the shared goal. Similar to employees in an office, vendor partners and workers involved in a project have their own expectations. If those expectations are not met, productivity falls, conflicts arise and often such situations result in ‘quiet quitting’.

Cognitive biases can hinder objective decision-making in project management. However, techniques developed in the field of cognitive behaviour provide a better understanding of these biases, allowing a more rational and unbiased decision-making process.

Behavioural economics can also inform motivational strategies in project management. Project managers can use concepts like intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, goal setting, and the power of rewards and recognition to inspire team members and enhance their performance.

In addition, understanding behavioural economics can benefit project management by improving communication and collaboration within project teams, managing risks, reducing uncertainty and evaluating return on investment decisions.


Much of the focus in the property industry in recent years has been on data and the digitisation of projects. While improvements in the field of ‘proptech’, many of which have been driven by developments in the application of artificial intelligence (AI), have certainly provided several good tools and techniques for property managers, they have drawn attention away from the importance of human factors.

Nevertheless, there is a growing awareness of the benefits a more human approach can offer across the entire real estate spectrum. Nowhere is this more apparent than in project management, where behavioural economics techniques offer the potential to transform the way real estate projects are delivered. 

A project’s objectives may remain unchanged, but the approach to achieving them will continue to evolve. Project managers who can recognise the potential of human behaviour, respond to these changes and embrace more soft skills to humanise the delivery process will likely redefine future success. In short, using behavioural economics to humanise real estate can be a game-changer for successfully managing and delivering projects.

Learn how JLL’s Project Development & Services project management expertise can transform your next project. 

Looking for more insights? Never miss an update.

The latest news, insights and opportunities from global commercial real estate markets straight to your inbox.