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Action Design Radio

Action Design Radio explores a variety of topics through the lens of behavioral science and psychology. Hosts Erik Johnson and Zarak Khan interview experts and practitioners to learn about cutting edge behavioral research, and how to practically apply it to fields like public policy and consumer products. The podcast is supported by the Action Design Network, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2012 to promote the use of behavioral economics and psychology with over 10,000 members across the US and Canada.
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Aug 9, 2022

We’re back! In our first episode after a summer break, Erik is joined by previous guest Laurel Newman to flip the tables and interview Zarak on how he applies behavioral science to the field of organizational innovation.

Aside from being co-host of this podcast, Zarak is a Senior Manager in Edward Jones' Firm Strategy Enablement Office, as well as a Senior Behavioral Researcher at Dan Ariely's Center for Advanced Hindsight. He also teach an applied behavioral science consulting course to graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania and serves on the Board of Action Design Network

Our conversation builds on his chapter for the book “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization,” which was edited by himself and Laurel Newman and published by Action Design Press with support from the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program.

In the episode, you’ll hear Zarak’s expertise on topics like the behavioral and structural barriers to innovation and processes to increase innovative work in organizations.

Mar 29, 2022
Zarak and Erik chat with Allison White, a senior behavioral researcher at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight. Allison primarily advises FinTech companies on how to improve the design of their products to improve financial wellbeing for their users. Previously she was a senior UX design strategist at Deloitte’s InsightStudio, and is also a regular guest speaker at U Penn’s Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program. Allison recently published with Habit Weekly a case study on her specialty of behavior mapping: https://www.habitweekly.com/behavioral-mapping-pro

 

Today Allison joins the podcast to dive into the various aspects of behavior mapping, including its nuances from journey mapping. Other topics include structural vs. psychological barriers, the importance of focusing on pain points, and what applied behavioral scientists can learn from the methodologies in other fields of human-centered design. According to Allison, one of the main advantages of behavior mapping is it forces you to incorporate a deeper level of specificity in your desired outcome, as well as the subsequent behaviors needed to reach that outcome.

Feb 24, 2022
Episode Description: Today's guest is Kristen Berman, co-founder of Duke University's Common Cents Lab, as well as co-founder (with Dan Ariely) of Irrational Labs. Kristen was on the founding team for the behavioral economics group at Google and has spoken at Facebook, Fidelity, Equifax, Stanford, and many more. Erik and Zarak chat with Kristen about her philosophy of incorporating behavioral science into the Product Manager's domain, creating what she dubs the Behavioral Product Manager. Kristen outlines how behavioral science gives us the missing pieces of the Product Manager's toolkit. 
 
 
Producer’s Note: This interview with our guest Kristen Berman and our hosts Zarak Kahn and Erik Johnson originally took place in 2018. In 2021, Kristen wrote a chapter for the book “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization,” which was edited by Zarak Khan and Laurel Newman, and published through Action Design Press with assistance from U Penn’s Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program. Kristen’s chapter in that book centers around the same topic as this interview: How behavioral science could and should be applied to Product Management. With the book release last year, we felt it was a great opportunity to reprise this fascinating interview, and generate some further discussion about this topic.
Jan 13, 2022

Happy 2022, Action Designers! In our first episode of the year, Zarak and Erik are joined by Namika Sagara to discuss her journey from academia to behavioral science practitioner, and how she applies BeSci to the field of consumer and market research.

 

Namika has a Ph.D. in Consumer Behavior and Judgment and Decision Making, founded the Behavioral Science Center for Ipsos in North America, and is currently the Chief Behavioral Officer for Syntoniq Inc., a behavioral insights consultancy and research firm. She is a prolific speaker and writer, including a chapter on Consumer and Market Research for the book “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization,” which was edited by Laurel Newman and our very own Zarak Khan, and published by Action Design Press with support from the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program.

 

Dive into this first episode of 2022 to hear Namika’s expertise on topics like focusing on how consumers actually think and behave in the real world, as well as the struggles and techniques to simulate real-life behavior in a market research and development environment. She also has tips for aspiring BeSci practitioners on the importance of support from organizational leadership.

Jun 17, 2021

It is our pleasure to welcome back Linnea Gandhi to the podcast! Linnea manages the boutique consulting firm BehavioralSight; develops and teaches applied behavioral science courses at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business; is pursuing her Ph.D. at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and lately has been keeping busy with helping to edit and organize the newly published book, “Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment,” written by renowned behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass Sunstein. She also loves her puppies, and your puppies too.

 

In today’s episode, Erik and Zarak explore with Linnea the differences between bias and noise, as well as the difficulty in designing behavioral interventions that are easy, relatable, and impactful. A lack of psychological safety in corporate culture makes it difficult to even find error and failure in companies, let alone try to improve them. The reason is because professionals (and people in general) are programmed to provide solutions. We’re rewarded for fixing things, or making them better – not so much for pointing out glaring errors that no one has noticed if we don’t have a ready-made answer for how to solve them.

 

How to address this gap, you ask? Well, you might start with a “noise audit.” Tune in and find out how to get started! Or sign up for her new online class on the subject at https://www.behavioralsight.com/online-learning.

May 19, 2021

Jon Levy is a behavioral scientist best known for his work in influence, human connection, and decision making. He specializes in applying the latest research to transform the way companies (from Fortune 500 brands to startups) approach marketing, sales, consumer engagement, and culture.

 

Jon joins Zarak and Erik to discuss his most recent book published just last week, “You’re Invited: The Art and Science of Cultivating Influence.” In their interview they cover the origins of The Influencers Dinner, a secret dining experience Jon founded over a decade ago that brings together industry leaders from Nobel laureates, Olympians, celebrities, executives, and overall “interesting people.” Jon was able to apply his understanding of the mechanics of human behavior (such as how people hate networking, but love making friends) to cultivate experiences rooted in emotional concepts like generosity and novelty. The results are events that are more remarkable and meaningful to those involved.

 

Other topics include the contagiousness of the behaviors of people we surround ourselves with, the connection between social integration and long life, and how to harness the IKEA effect to create a sense of belonging for people without spending big bucks. 

May 6, 2021

As applied behavior science has become more widespread, a need has emerged for guidance on how to build and integrate behavioral science functions within an organization. To help fill this need, our very own Zarak Khan – along with psychology professor turned applied behavioral scientist Laurel Newman – edited a book that was published in March that draws on the collective wisdom of applied behavioral scientists with cross-industry experience.

Download a free copy of “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization” at http://www.action-design.org/buildingbehavioralscienceorgs. Or you can purchase a Kindle or paperback copy on Amazon, at cost.

In today’s episode, Laurel Newman joins Erik and Zarak to discuss the applications of behavioral science to HR. While there’s usually an organizational focus on leadership, Laurel makes the case for more focus on role clarity and role fit. She says that there’s often an opportunity to focus more on putting employees in positions where they feel like there’s a great match between what they’re good at and what the role means for them. Research shows that companies with more intrinsically motivated employees also have happier customers; so employee satisfaction and wellbeing directly benefit a company’s bottom line. Laurel recommends that HR departments – and organizations in general – ask more questions such as:

  • When we teach people information, how do we make it relevant and useful enough for them to have the necessary impact and result in the desired behavior change?
  • How can we avoid silos, and be more honest about investigating and identifying problems?
  • Are we focusing on behavior (dependent variable), or just assuming that the independent variable (such as training) will have the desired impact?
Mar 30, 2021

As applied behavioral science has become more widespread, a need has emerged for guidance on how to build and integrate behavioral science functions within an organization. To help fill this need, our very own Zarak Khan – along with psychology professor turned behavioral scientist Laurel Newman – edited a book that draws on the collective wisdom of applied behavioral scientists with cross-industry experience.

Download a free copy of “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization” at http://www.action-design.org/buildingbehavioralscienceorgs. Or you can purchase a Kindle or paperback copy on Amazon, at cost.

We flip the script on this episode! Zarak and Laurel are interviewed by Christopher Nave, Managing Director of the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences Program at the University of Pennsylvania. They discuss how this book provides practical guidance on building a behavioral science function that has meaningful impact for any organization.

Stay tuned for more episodes to come in this series, where we interview other authors and contributors to “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization.”  

Feb 2, 2021

Description: Logan Ury is the Director of Relationship Science at Hinge, where she leads a research team dedicated to helping people find love and, ultimately, delete the Hinge app. Before joining Hinge, she partnered with Dan Ariely and Kristen Berman to run the behavioral economics unit at Google, advising on marketing and product design strategy across the company. Logan’s new book, “How to Not Die Alone,” will be released on February 2nd. Logan joins Erik and Zarak in this episode to discuss her upcoming book and her journey from Harvard to Google to Hinge, where she takes her expertise in decision-making and applies it to helping people make better decisions about dating and relationships. They tackle questions like why people usually view relationships as different from other behavioral changes they consciously want to improve.

 

Dating as we know it really only started around the very end of the 19th century. Online dating began around 1994, and dating via smartphone apps only started about 10 years ago. All of these choices and the volume of potential partners is a totally new phenomenon that our brains have not yet adapted to account for. Logan explains that dating, like any other skill, is something we can be bad at, and then through effort we can get better at. Most people have read books about personal finance, or dieted, or worked out with a personal trainer, and done many other things where we spend time and energy trying to improve in important life areas. But her research has found that most of those same people view dating as a “choosing” problem, when it’s really an effort problem.  

 

So whether you’re single or in a committed relationship, get ready to think about the intersection of dating, relationships, and behavior in a brand new way!

 

Quote: “People don’t think that they need to be taught how to date,” Logan says. “They think that dating is natural. And the logical error there is that dating is not the same as love. So I agree that love is this natural phenomenon, it’s a chemical reaction, it’s the oxytocin, it’s bonding with your child – it’s falling in love, right? It’s all of those things. But dating is not the same as love, and dating is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of humankind.”

Sep 10, 2020

The Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) generates and applies behavioral insights to inform policy, improve public services, and deliver results for citizens and society. Over the last decade, BIT has grown from a seven-person unit in the U.K. government to a global social purpose company with offices around the world. Their work in areas like healthcare, humanitarian aid, and economic growth spanned 31 countries just last year.

 

Michael Hallsworth is the current Managing Director of BIT North America, and Elspeth Kirkman is the previous Managing Director of that unit and current London office Director. They carry a combined 15 years of experience with BIT, and just co-authored a book, “Behavioral Insights,” which was published earlier this month.

 

Zarak and Erik welcome them both to the show! They discuss the application of behavioral insights and scientific method to real-world problems. This can range from an individual level to help people achieve personal goals, to a grander scale to help affect positive change for entire populations and societies. Other topics include behavioral science concepts that originated in the Enlightenment, and how important it is to constantly test and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, measure the impact wherever possible, and always remain skeptical. 

Sep 3, 2020

In today's episode we welcome back to the program Kelly Leonard, Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation at Second City Works and host of the "Getting to Yes, And" podcast.

 

Zarak and Erik chat with Kelly about how they have pivoted their business, which is based on in-person experiences, to digital events. We cover how Second City has had to experiment to produce virtual classes and shows in the Year of COVID-19. Kelly says that improv comedy traits like resilience and change readiness have helped them pivot, and that the application of improv skills has never been more relevant. 

 

Since this is Action Design Radio, and our guest is an improv guru, we cover a lot of ground with Kelly, including why we should go off-camera more when using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, and how during this time we're all dealing with the trauma and loss of things in our lives (both big and small) that used to be cornerstones of our humanity. Oh, and the quest for the best Italian beef in all of Chicagoland.

Jul 30, 2020

Don’t look now – it’s a crossover episode! No, not Alf meets Gilligan’s Island, or The Simpsons meets Family Guy. It’s Behavioral Grooves meets Action Design Radio!

 

Kurt Nelson is the founder of The Lantern Group, a behavioral design and communication agency, and Tim Houlihan is the founder of the BehaviorAlchemy consultancy. Together, they also team up to host the Behavioral Grooves podcast, where they interview top practitioners and researchers in the various fields of behavioral science, and mix things up with their passion for music. 

 

In today’s episode, they discuss with Erik and Zarak their origin story for how Behavioral Grooves was born, favorite episodes, the evolution of behavioral science in general over the 20+ years they’ve both been working in the field, and its infinite applications. The endless quest for knowledge and a passion for satisfying their curiosity is what keeps them coming back with such enthusiasm for these topics after so many years and 160 episodes across their two podcasts.

 

Other topics include:

  • "Accidental" behavioral scientists – the bicycle store owner who implements choice architecture, or the manager of a nonprofit organization in Africa who uses social proof to improve public health
    • They may not have sophisticated data or use behavioral language, but they’re running experiments and putting the right tools into action just like behavioral scientists would
  • Understanding failures and how to learn from them
  • Replication issues
  • Yet another plug for Zarak’s favorite beard product, Cowboy Magic – official sponsorship here we come?
  • And of course, what music everyone is groovin’ on these days
Jun 15, 2020

Stephen Wendel is the Head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar, a leading provider of independent investment research. He and his team of behavioral scientists and practitioners specialize in savings and investing behavior, as well as digital products that help individuals manage their money more effectively. He founded the Action Design Network in 2012 and has authored several books, the most recent of which is titled “Designing for Behavior Change: Applying Psychology and Behavioral Economics – Second Edition.” The book is currently available for purchase on Kindle, and can be pre-ordered in print. You can download the free workbook at www.behavioraltechnology.co.

 

Steve joins Zarak and Erik to discuss his latest book, which describes how people can apply behavioral science in products and communications, and to help people change behavior in intentional and beneficial ways. In conjunction with the Action Design Network and the Behavioral Science & Policy Association, Steve and his team just ran the most comprehensive survey to date of applied behavioral teams across the globe. The diversity in the field has exploded; organizations with applied behavioral teams ranging from Kosovo to Peru participated in this survey, and the results are detailed in Steve's new book, as well as this episode.

May 28, 2020

Michelle Niedziela is the Scientific Director and VP of Innovation at HCD Research, a marketing and consumer sciences company that applies neuroscience tools along with traditional market research methods to help their clients create better products, packaging, and communications for consumers. She also worked as a senior scientist at Johnson & Johnson, and still regularly contributes as a columnist on consumer perspectives to various publications.

 

What are some things behavioral scientists should know more about neuroscience? When should they work together to enhance what they both do? Zarak, Erik, and Michelle tackle questions like these in today’s episode. As Michelle explains, there are a lot of misconceptions about neuroscience. When you conduct “fancy” neuroscience research, it doesn’t mean giving up good, old-fashioned surveys or qual and quant research methods. They must all be combined to better understand how the consumer experiences a product. “Measuring brain activity doesn’t really tell you anything unless you put it in context, and I feel like the behavioral science gives you that context,” she says.

 

Other topics include cognitive flow, using neuroscience to increase the effectiveness of OTC (over-the-counter) drugs, and Zarak’s beard care product of choice. Spoiler Alert: it’s called Cowboy Magic.

Apr 9, 2020
Matthew Darling is a Vice President at ideas42, a nonprofit organization that uses behavioral science to improve lives, build better systems and policies, and drive social change. They have applied behavioral insights in more than 100 projects across 35 countries and 6 continents, helping people act on choices that affect their lives and communities. Matt also contributes as a columnist for The Behavioral Scientist.
 
He joins Erik and Zarak to discuss the economic and behavioral challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. They explore issues such as the United States' outdated unemployment verification process; leveraging identities (such as being a responsible citizen doing their part); and how BeSci can help eligible taxpayers spend their CARES Act* stimulus funds in ways that are most helpful to them.
 
* Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act
Mar 27, 2020

Dan Egan, Director of Behavioral Finance and Investing at Betterment, joins our hosts Erik and Zarak to discuss financial and investment behavior during times of crisis. What does today’s coronavirus pandemic have in common with previous crises that negatively impacted the economy and financial markets? What is unique to this particular situation? How have most investors responded so far? What roles do fear, control, and adaptability play? How can we better leverage basic behavioral science concepts such as nudging and mental accounting? What is the relationship between physical health, mental stress, and financial decision-making? What are some things we can be doing from home to help ourselves and others during this time?

These questions and more are answered in this latest episode. Take a deep breath, try to relax (maybe turn off the news and social media notifications for a few minutes), and enjoy!

Mar 18, 2020

Stephen Wendel is the Head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar, a leading provider of independent investment research. He and his team of behavioral scientists and practitioners specialize in savings and investing behavior, as well as digital products that help individuals manage their money more effectively. He founded the Action Design Network in 2012 and has authored three books, the most recent of which is titled “Spiritual Design: Enrich Your Spiritual Practice with Lessons from Behavioral Science.” He has graciously made free download of this book available at www.spiritualdesign.co/book.

 

Steve joins our hosts Zarak and Erik to discuss the unique application of behavioral science to spirituality and religion. Many individuals have certain values they want to live by, but fall into the classic trap of "All or Nothing." This happens when we think we need to go to the gym every day if we’re fit; save or invest every penny if we’re financially responsible; or constantly go to houses of worship and give to charity if we value certain beliefs. Since this approach usually isn’t sustainable for most people, Steve explains techniques to design environments for ourselves that are more conducive to following our beliefs and expressing our faith in ways that are doable and fulfilling. 

Jan 16, 2020

Happy New Year! In the first installment of Action Design Radio in 2020, our hosts Zarak and Erik are joined by behavior designer David Ngo. After studying under B.J. Fogg at Stanford, David founded his own behavior design firm – Behavior Delta: www.behaviordelta.com.

 

In today’s episode, David and our hosts discuss the psychological power of expectation, the “Swarm of B's” technique, and how to apply the Fogg model of behavior to creating new habits and healthy, lasting behavior change. There are many, many different methods of achieving the same goal. David says it’s important to keep in mind – especially this time of year when New Year’s Resolutions abound – that if the first attempt (experiment) doesn’t work out, don’t be discouraged; in fact, don’t even be surprised. It’s just a matter of finding a methodology that makes sense for you. 

 

Check out these links for more information on the Swarm of B's Behavior Design Method, as well as B.J. Fogg’s new book, “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything.”

https://lifehacker.com/use-the-swarm-of-bs-technique-to-successfully-form-new-1840617907

tinyhabits.com

Dec 19, 2019

Rory Sutherland is the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, an advertising and marketing agency where he co-founded the behavioral science practice. He is a TED Global speaker and writes regular columns for The Spectator and The Behavioral Scientist. His latest book, "Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense," was published earlier this year.

 

Rory joins our hosts Erik and Zarak for a special two-part episode to share his unique perspective and expertise in identifying unseen opportunities in consumer behavior. Part Two topics include the power of reference points, whether we should be using more humor to prevent crime, and examples of when the opposite of a good idea... is another good idea.

Dec 11, 2019

Ho-Ho-Ho! It's a surprise holiday-themed mini episode of Action Design Radio! (Stocking stuffer sized, if you will -- we will.)

Erik and Zarak are joined by Jacob Mohrmann for some timely advice this holiday season on how to shop for gifts that are sure to go over well with your loved ones. Jacob is the Research and Insights Manager on the behavioral science team at Maritz, a company that specializes in employee experience solutions, incentive travel, customer loyalty and reward programs. Their history with gift giving goes back to the 1920's, when they created the tradition of giving people a gold watch at retirement.

Dec 5, 2019
Rory Sutherland is the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, an advertising and marketing agency where he co-founded the behavioral science practice. He is a TED Global speaker and writes regular columns for The Spectator and The Behavioral Scientist. His latest book, "Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense," was published earlier this year. 
 
Rory joins our hosts Erik and Zarak for a special two-part episode to share his unique perspective and expertise in identifying unseen opportunities in consumer behavior. Part 1 topics include what capitalism can teach us about the behavior of supply and demand, how small changes in context can completely change our perception of reality, and what traditional economics got wrong about the beer industry. 
 
Sound Bite: "Algorithms give the appearance of being wonderfully objective, but enshrined in them are all the assumptions and prejudices of the designer."
Oct 28, 2019

In our latest episode, Aline Holzwarth joins Erik and Zarak to discuss the intersection of healthcare, behavioral science, and technology. Aline is a Principal at Duke University's Center for Advanced Hindsight, where she's worked alongside Dan Ariely for the past 10 years. She is also the Head of Behavioral Science at Pattern Health, a digital health platform designed to help people live happier and healthier lives. 

Topics include the healthcare industry's tendency to take an information-based approach, a common mistake that assumes by simply giving people information (Smoking = Bad) that they will find the motivation on their own to implement healthy behavior change. Behavioral science can help bridge that gap by designing products and services that get people from information to action. And in a world where the smartphone is increasingly omnipresent, digital interventions have huge potential for real-world impact.

Sep 11, 2019

Zarak and Erik are joined by behavioral designer Nir Eyal, the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.” Nir has taught business and design at Stanford, founded two technology companies, and helps teams design more engaging products. His writing on technology, psychology, and business appears in the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today.

Nir discusses the themes and inspiration behind his latest book “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life,” released September 10th, including why we struggle with distraction, the overuse of technology, and tips for overcoming those issues to live to the fullest extent of your values.

Aug 30, 2019

We've been getting a lot of questions lately about how to start a career in behavioral science. To shed some light on different career paths, we're doing a series of podcasts on different types of training that fall somewhere between a one-day workshop and a PhD. These aren't advertisements for the programs, but are meant to give you a sense of the kinds of options out there, should you decide to pursue a career in behavioral science.

In our second Behavioral Science Training installment, Erik and Zarak are joined by Christopher Nave, Associate Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program. Chris shares his passion for bringing together graduate students from diverse industries, backgrounds, and disciplines in order to study decision-making and better understand sustainable behavior change. Chris explains how measurement, data science, and experimental design are crucial to applying academic concepts like cognitive biases and heuristics to the real world.

Jul 23, 2019
We've been getting a lot of questions lately about how to start a career in behavioral science. To shed some light on different career paths, we're doing a series of podcasts on different types of training that fall somewhere between a one-day workshop and a PhD. These aren't advertisements for the programs, but are meant to give you a sense of the type of things out there, should you decide to pursue a career in behavioral science. 
 
In this episode, we focus on a ten-week bootcamp from Irrational Labs. Evelyn Gosnell is a behavioral economics consultant who focuses on the application of behavioral insights in product design, marketing, and organizational design. She is Managing Director at Irrational Labs, as well as the leader of their Behavioral Economics Bootcamp. 
 
Today Evelyn joins Zarak and Erik to break down the services that Irrational Labs provides its partners in order to increase end users' health, wealth, and happiness.

 

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