Elizabeth Kim is an Applied Behavioral Scientist at the e-commerce company Jet.com, where she designs and conducts experiments to make better products for users. She is also founder of the Duke Behavioral Science Group, a community of Duke University students and faculty dedicated to applying behavioral science to policies, products, and businesses for social good.
Our hosts Zarak and Erik chat with Elizabeth about her BeSci origin story, including how a meaningful conversation with Dan Ariely led to a partnership where they tested the behavioral effects of just that: having meaningful conversations. They discuss the importance of acting on your curiosity, being versatile, and taking the initiative in a world where there’s currently more interest in behavioral science than there are jobs specifically made for BeSci experts.
Elizabeth offers inspiration and advice to individuals – from students to experienced professionals – who want to integrate behavioral science into what they do but are unsure where to start. Examples are discussed and tips are shared about how to take action and build something even when the factors aren’t in place for a formal BeSci intervention.
Ruth Schmidt is a Visiting Industry Professor and Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Illinois Institute of Technology – Institute of Design. Prior to joining ID, Ruth served as a senior leader at Doblin/Deloitte for over eight years, where she led teams in applying design-informed innovation strategy to solve complex challenges and grow new innovation functions within client organizations, primarily in the health care and financial services industries. She has presented on behavioral economics and communication theory + design at multiple institutions, publications, and conferences.
In our Season Two opener, Ruth joins Erik and Zach to discuss the intersection of behavioral science and design. Ruth shares her perspective on the importance of considering the people for whom you are designing a product, service, or experience. They cover cross-industry examples of when to lead with a behavioral science lens and support it by design thinking, vice versa, and why.
Jeff Kreisler is just a typical Princeton educated lawyer turned author, speaker, pundit, comedian, and behavioral science advocate. He uses humor and research to understand, explain, and change the world. Winner of the Bill Hicks Spirit Award for Thought Provoking Comedy, he runs PeopleScience.com, writes for TV, politicians and CEOs, and shares witty insight on CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, and SiriusXM.
In our latest episode, Jeff joins Zarak and Zach to chat about his journey from comedian to behavioral science thought leader. They discuss the most important takeaways from his latest book “Dollars and Sense” (co-authored with Dan Ariely) , as well as his current and future projects. Other topics include how people can use behavioral science to improve their everyday lives without being obsessive, and the importance of always having a sense of humor.
Kelly Leonard is the Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation at The Second City and President of Second City Theatricals. He has worked at The Second City since 1988 and has overseen productions with such notable performers as Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Adam McKay, Seth Meyers, Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler, Jason Sudeikis, Keegan-Michael Key, Horatio Sans, Amy Sedaris and a host of others.
In our newest episode, Erik and Zarak chat with Kelly about his recent involvement with the Second Science Project – a partnership between Second City and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The Second Science Project utilizes cutting-edge behavioral science to better study, understand, and support improvisation in everyday life. By approaching behavioral science through the lens of improvisational comedy, they create executive training programs for businesses to improve innovation, creative thinking, and ways to challenge our instincts and assumptions.
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.
For example, a BPM would prioritize measurement and experimental infrastructure sooner than a normal PM would, highlighting that you can’t move a company toward consumer outcome if you’re not properly measuring it. Most companies, as well as their Product Managers, use traditional methods like focus groups and interviews to find out what their customers “think” and how they “feel.” But the Behavioral Product Manager concentrates on things like behavioral mapping and identifying friction, because the behavioral world focuses more on what people do and less on what they say.
In this week’s episode, our hosts sit down with Linnea Gandhi, managing partner of the boutique consulting firm BehavioralSight and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Linnea, Erik, and Zarak discuss the importance of following the scientific method. This process applies to all settings, including the corporate world where the demand is always for results – and getting them today (or yesterday, if possible). Avoiding gut reactions, intuition, and emotional responses – and instead replacing them with statistics, data, and algorithms – will lead to more optimal decision-making.
But how do we apply this process, especially in situations where important decisions are at stake? Linnea’s focus is on getting executives across industries to realize that we are all more capable of creating algorithms than we may think – even when it comes to decisions such as whether to merger with or acquire another company, or whether to lay off a significant amount of their workforce.
Linnea argues that research and psychological literature are not useful to most people unless you can apply it somewhere practical. So she urges us to make our brains work more like an algorithm by removing intuition from the equation as much as possible. Reduce the “noise” as much as you can and isolate the data. Then, translate your behavioral science improvements to the language of the stakeholders. That is what will truly grab attention.
And never forget to be painfully aware of your own confirmation bias.
Erik and Zarak are joined by Dr. Sarah Newcomb, behavioral economist at Morningstar, an investment research firm committed to improving the wellbeing of investors through the use of research and software. Sarah’s personal passion and professional goal is to bring independent financial advice to populations that are currently underserved by the financial services industry, namely: women, low/moderate income households, and younger investors.
Sarah discusses the psychology of money and explores why smart people can make poor financial decisions. She outlines techniques to change one’s thinking, such as distinguishing between a “need” and a “strategy” to meet that need. A person may not need a car. What they need is transportation, and a car is one of several strategies to meet that need – all of which come along with a different price tag. Zarak doesn’t necessarily need to go to Starbucks every day. What he needs is to get out of the office for 15 minutes every afternoon, and Starbucks is just one strategy to meet that need. Sarah invokes Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help us reevaluate what our true needs are, and why that can help us financially.
How can we create better habits? This is a question many of us ask ourselves as we enter the New Year and try to implement our resolutions (and stick with them). Life outcomes like exercising regularly, flossing, eating a healthy diet, studying hard in school, making wise financial decisions – why are better habits so hard to maintain? And what can we do in order to improve our chances of meeting these goals for ourselves?
In this week’s episode, Erik and Zarak tackle these questions with Dr. Katy Milkman, associate professor of behavioral economics at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. They discuss behavioral concepts like habits, incentives, motivation, rewards, consequences, accountability, and commitment devices. Katy brings an engineering background to her current focus on quantitative social science research, such as how to help people create lasting and positive behavior change.
One of the most relevant behavioral concepts to New Year’s is the fresh start effect – how at the start of new cycles in our lives, we feel extra motivated to tackle new goals. Entering a new period makes us feel like we have a separation from our past failures, and we have a renewed optimism to finally do the things we want to do but never got around to. According to Katy, emphasizing milestones or life events (big or small) can be effective motivators for behavior change.