Saurabh Bhargava, PhD is a professor and researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and he joined us in the Behavioral Grooves studio during a visit to Minnesota over the holidays. Saurabh has also taught at the Booth School at the University of Chicago and worked in corporate consulting for McKinsey & Company.

His work history, and the fact that he hails from the very sensible state of Minnesota, adds credibility and practicability to his work.  In recent years, much of his research has focused on examining policies and programs that shape financial and health wellness. His curiosities have ranged from how we make health insurance choices from complicated menus to the effects of emotion on political beliefs and voting.

Saurabh’ research is best summed up using his own words. His research, he says, “uses natural field experiments to better understand the systematic ways in which people's behavior departs from what economists would think of as a rational benchmark. Then, using some of these insights to help improve how we think about the design of policies and programs that are intended to help them.”

In this conversation, Saurabh talked about findings he’s made, with his colleague Lynn Conell-Price, in how people prepare (or don’t prepare) for retirement. Planning for retirement is complex: we don’t know how long we’re going to live, we don’t exactly know how much we’re going to spend, and we don’t know how the economy will treat our savings. All are difficult – if not impossible for ordinary Jane’s and Joe’s – to estimate. Their working paper wrestles with these issues and offers findings that will help people, who have not really engaged in their retirement, to get started.

Their work tests three candidate explanations offered by Behavioral Economists as to why employees do not save sufficiently for retirement through their 401(k) plans:

  • Financial literacy. Because decisions about saving are made very rarely, it’s common to lack the skills required to make the most effective decisions. But like the GI Joe fallacy, knowing is not even close to being half the battle. 

 

  • Complexity. Kahneman and Tversky demonstrated that the more complex the problem, the less likely people are to solve it well and decisions that require managing complex online forms could deter us from making the decision at all.

 

  • Self-Control (Procrastination). This is a biggie. Our present bias can be so strong that we’re willing to forego the pain of a few dollars less each paycheck (today) in exchange for a more comfortable future (tomorrow).

We discussed his findings and a surprising micro-behavioral intervention aimed at those who were not enrolled. Incentives cannot be offered to get people to enroll, but they can be aimed at PRE-enrolling behavior: logging in. Saurabh’s discussion of the results are terrific!

We hope you enjoy our discussion with Saurabh and would be very grateful for a positive rating on your favorite podcatcher. It goes a long way with us and our efforts to expand our audience.

 

Links

Saurabh Bhargava, PhD: Department of Social & Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University.  

Email = sbhar@andrew.cmu.edu

Website = https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/people/faculty/saurabh-bhargava.html

 

Kurt Nelson, PhD: kurt@lanterngroup.com

Tim Houlihan: tim@behavioralchemy.com

Subscribe at https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/

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John Sweeney is the author of Innovation at the Speed of Laughter: 8 Secrets to World Class Idea Generation, corporate keynote speaker, improvisational impresario, the actor known for his character Jiggly Boy, a brainstorming and innovation maniac, and the owner of the Brave New Workshop, an improvisational theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota for more than 20 years.

More importantly, John is an accidental behavioral scientist. His worldview is based on observations he has made about human interactions in group settings and those interactions are, as you guessed, behaviorally based. John and his colleagues lead workshops on innovation that leverage principles from behavioral science and they do it with lots of laughter.

In our conversation with John, we talked about things he’s passionate about. We talked about how his character, Jiggly Boy, that was created to raise awareness for Minnesota’s professional basketball team, became a conduit to raise money for the Smile Network, an international humanitarian organization that provides life-altering reconstructive surgeries. The 11 million YouTube hits have contributed, via a link on the Jiggly Boy page, to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Smile Network. Very cool, indeed.

John also shared stories about how an in-person knife throwing demonstration was used in pitching his book at a book buyer’s convention (talk about vividness!) and how he brings new and novel ideas to corporate clients.

Aside from being gut-splitting funny, we discovered John shared important behavioral science principles to groove on after our conversation. One was the power of “Yes, and…” and how, with practice, it can become a way of life. Another was the importance of psychology safety and how it’s sorely missed in the corporate world today.

The last topic we grooved on was the concept of how you practice improv when it is unpracticable and how we can use narrative to engage and persuade. 

This episode was recorded LIVE during our Behavioral Grooves meetup at John’s theatre, the Brave New Workshop. We wanted to bring John’s outsized personality to life, so a live audience seemed most fitting and we are grateful that he offered up his theatre as the venue. Thank you to John, Renee Scott, Matthew Vichlach and Craig Anderson for their support.

We laughed and laughed. A LOT. And we suspect you will, too. We hope you enjoy our conversation with John Sweeney.  

Links

John Sweeney: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnsweeneybrave/

 Brave New Workshop: https://www.bravenewworkshop.com/  Motto: “Promiscuous hostility, positive neutrality.”

Jiggly boy: http://www.jigglyboy.com/

Smile Network: http://www.smilenetwork.org/

Innovation at the Speed of Laughter: 8 Secrets to World Class Idea Generation, (2007) Aerialist Press.  https://www.amazon.com/Innovation-Speed-Laughter-Generation-Paperback/dp/0976218437/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549486513&sr=8-1&keywords=innovation+at+the+speed+of+laughter

Brainstorming: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainstorming According to Wikipedia, “…brainstorming is a situation where a group of people meet to generate new ideas and solutions around a specific domain of interest by removing inhibitions.” A dozen top websites echo this requirement to remove inhibitions, but none really address it. Sweeney does.

Yes, and…: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes,_and...

On role-playing and brainstorming: “Take it to the next stage: the roles of role-playing in the design process” by Kristian T. Simsarian, IDEO (2003) published in CHI '03 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 1012-1013. https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=766123  Role-playing is complementary to traditional design techniques providing additional team dynamics and insights that bring the process and designs to another level. 

Project Aristotle: https://rework.withgoogle.com/print/guides/5721312655835136/

Bell, David A., “Regret in Decision Making Under Uncertainty,” Operations Research Society of America, 1982. http://www.people.hbs.edu/dbell/regret%20in%20decison%20making%20.pdf

Davis, Miles: Kinda Blue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fC1qSxpmKo Or, if you can, check out the 1997 reissue of the record featuring an alternative version of “Flamenco Sketches” to compare to the one released on the original 1959 recording. This comparison provides great insight into the tremendous improvisational power of Davis and his talented band.

Dr. Dimento: https://www.drdemento.com/

Dr. Science: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KUEg8rwzUA

Kurt and Tim help companies positively apply behavioral insights into their organizations - let's have a conversation about how we can help your company. You can reach us at Kurt@lanterngroup.com or Tim@behavioralchemy.com. We’d love to help your organization improve your bottom line with a behavioral lens.

Subscribe at: https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/ 

 

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The safety insights from our guest could save your life

Rodd Wagner is The New York Times bestselling author of the book "Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees as If They're Real People." A contributor to Forbes, he is one of the foremost authorities on employee engagement and collaboration. Wagner's books, speeches, and thought leadership focus on how human nature affects business strategy. He and his aerospace engineer son, Rodd Parks Wagner, are currently completing work on a book on the psychology of safety.

We talked with Rodd about a wide variety of topics from writing books to the impact sleep has on behavior, the impact of checklists, and Zen Buddhism.  But what really excited us was our discussion of hedonic adaptation and how it applies to safety…and to so much more.

We also discussed the moral code of self-driving cars and who will program (and what decisions they’ll make when programming) the robots to act. We talked about the famous Trolley Car Study (1967) and how self-driving cars will need to be taught to make tough moral decisions. 

Our discussion with Rodd was followed by our grooving session, which focused on both hedonic adaptation and the morality of machines.  

By listening to Behavioral Grooves, you are part of a community of people interested in behavioral science – a community that we are trying to build.  We would be grateful if you can help expand that community by recommending this episode, or another Behavioral Grooves episode, to a friend. https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/

Also, Kurt and Tim help companies apply positive and ethical behavioral insights to their organizations. If you’re interested in starting a conversation, you can reach us at Kurt@lanterngroup.com or Tim@behavioralchemy.com. We’d love to help your organization improve your bottom line with a behavioral lens.

 

Contact

You can reach Rodd Wagner at rocksolidstrategy@gmail.com.

Rodd’s Forbes columns can be found here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/roddwagner/.

Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees as if They’re Real People, by Rodd Wagner, McGraw-Hill (2015). https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/the-12-new-rules-for-managing-your-employees-like-real-people.html

 

Books We Discussed

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Phillip Dick (1996). Kurt referenced this book by Phillip Dick when Tim mistakenly thought he was speaking of Isaac Asimov’s classic I Robothttps://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/40617/do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep-by-philip-k-dick/9780345404473/

I Robot, by Isaac Asimov (1950). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I,_Robot

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande, Picador (2011). http://atulgawande.com/book/the-checklist-manifesto/

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, Simon & Schuster (2018). https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Why-We-Sleep/Matthew-Walker/9781501144325

Why Buddhism is True, by Robert Wright, Simon & Schuster (2018). https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Why-Buddhism-is-True/Robert-Wright/9781439195468

 

Papers & Studies We Discussed

Ariely, Dan. On Why Religion Makes You Behave Better, Slate. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_wright_show/2012/07/05/why_religion_makes_you_behave_better.html

Brickman & Campbell, The Hedonic Treadmill (1971). http://faculty.som.yale.edu/ShaneFrederick/HedonicTreadmill.pdf?subject=Please+mail+a+hard+copy+of  …and… https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/hedonic-treadmill/ 

Hyman, Ira E., Jr., et. al. “Did You See the Unicycling Clown? Inattentional Blindness while Walking and Talking on a Cell Phone.” Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24: 597–607 (2010) 

Loewenstein, George. On bereavement and hedonic adaptation: https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/HedonicAdaptation.pdf from Kahneman, Diener & Schwarz, Wellbeing: the foundations of hedonic psychology, Sage Foundation, 1999. 

Lyubomirsky, Sonja. On the key elements of happiness: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonja_Lyubomirsky

Eye Tracking Experiment: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20160006052.pdf

Trolley Car Study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOpf6KcWYyw

MIT Moral Machine: https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/moral-machine/overview/

 

Music We Discussed

Angus & Julia Stone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0feNWRd3FE

Pat Metheny, “One Quiet Night.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eY4qcaiWs8

Damien Rice

Nine Inch Nails

Ministry

Lynyrd Skynyrd "Freebird" 

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Thomas Steenburgh, PhD is a senior professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Tom spent a good portion of his career in the corporate world and before he departed for academia, he held senior positions at Xerox Corporation, ending his work there as head of the US Direct Incentive Strategy with a budget of $140 million budget for 4,000 salespeople Tom has partnered with Mike Ahearne, PhD from the University of Houston (featured in a June 2018 episode of Behavioral Grooves) on extensive research related to the performance and management of sales reps.

Recently, the two of them developed ground-breaking research on how to help sales reps be more successful when they are asked to sell new products. Tom and Mike invested 5 years in gathering data from sales managers, salespeople, and even customers. The insights they gained were especially valuable for those working in sales leadership positions.

There were three primary discoveries we discussed with Tom. The first is that the best asset for a sales rep to have when it comes to selling new products is a learning mindset. A learning mindset, as described by Tom, is what comes from a sales rep’s innate curiosity about customers, their environment and their needs. As intuitive as that sounds, it’s a lot less common that we imagine.

Reps with learning mindsets spend more time discussing the market trends affecting the customers as well as the situations and the specific needs their customers have before they start into selling new products. This deep investigation into each customer’s situation contributes to increased success when they start selling. The downside is that it takes more time and reduces output while they’re doing that investigation. Sales managers who are anxious to keep the numbers up from month to month may struggle with this. Tom highlighted a few ways to work around this in the short term.

The second big discovery was the disconnect between sales reps and their customers in how they perceive the strengths of the reps. In other words, customers were asked to rate reps on a variety of scales and reps were asked to the same of themselves. When considering the rep’s strengths, customers tended to rate sales reps very differently than reps rated themselves. The only dimension the reps and customers agreed on was on the sales rep’s product knowledge. Customers were more likely to give reps lower scores on reps’ learning mindsets, adaptability and openness than the reps gave themselves. This revealed big blind spots.

The third big discovery was the role of the rep’s emotional wellbeing in the selling process. We recognize that selling new products can be hard on the reps, but it’s vital to the company’s long-term success. Tom’s research revealed that sales reps need to become change agents within the organization as well as masters to change their own selling methods. These changes, along with saving face with clients, can cause significant emotional challenges – a component that has been undervalued in the past.

It turns out that reps were surprised by the stark contrast between how easy it was to get customers to take meetings and how difficult it was to close deals after the initial interest. Unfortunately, most sales reps failed to do the deep investigation to understand who the best target for the new product would be, so many of their meetings were wastes of time.

We also talked about the importance of strategic account reps with their broader viewpoints and longer-term orientations and how they can be leaders in new product introductions. And we discussed Neil Rackham, the creator of SPIN selling and author of books on consultative selling.

Of course, we also discussed Tom’s eclectic tastes in music. Apparently, he has seemingly equal interest in the works of Philip Glass, great American contemporary composer of minimalist orchestral music and John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards, who are responsible for some of the greatest covers of Ornette Coleman’s classic sax tunes. But Tom also listens to the sweet and simple Americana melodies of Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch. Not to be outdone with another left-turn, Tom paid special note to Kurt Weill, the early 20th century composer of The Threepenny Opera which featured the song “Mack The Knife” (lyrics by Berthold Brecht). It was popularized by Bobby Darin in 1958, then Ella Fitzgerald in her 1960 performance Live in Berlin, which we’ve referenced before as one of the greatest live recordings – ever. Our own notes included references to The Who’s Tommy and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

In our grooving session, we expanded on Tom’s mention of learning mindset and we brought up Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. The intersection of these two concepts is very cool.

 

Finally, Kurt and Tim help companies with sales compensation, sales incentive structures and the selecting the most motivational rewards, don’t hesitate to start a conversation with us. You might be a sales leader with questions, and we can help answer them. We’d love to help your organization improve your bottom line with a behavioral lens.

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @whatmotivates 

Tim Houlihan: @thoulihan

 

 

Web site: www.behavioralgrooves.com

Subscriptions: https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/

 

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Robert Cialdini, PhD is counted among the greatest psychological researchers alive today and his published works have been cited thousands of times. His New York Times best-selling book, Influence, from 1984, is considered a classic for classroom and corporate use alike. He is an ardent author and a passionate professor, and his work has impacted millions. In short, Bob Cialdini has shaped the landscape of how sales and marketing workers do their jobs and how researchers frame their studies.

In this episode of Behavioral Grooves, Bob took a few minutes to discuss some of his most underappreciated research and some of the new things he’s working on. We began with a study that used littering as a way to predict, before the polls closed, the outcome of an election by watching how voters treated candidate fliers left on their cars. One of the very elegant aspects of this study was that it required no surveys – merely the observation of behaviors in the parking lots of the polling places. The question the researchers sought to answer was this: How do voters treat the fliers of candidates they favor and of those they oppose? More specifically, do voters keep fliers from candidates they like and litter with the fliers of candidates they dislike?  

Then, our conversation moved to a line of research that he’d investigated for over a decade: the motivations for pro-social behavior, such as giving to those in need. Bob reminds us that there are many motivators at play when one person helps out another, as when a passerby gives money to some asking for money on the street, but there is one motivator that stands out: egoism. Many of us believe that being charitable is an obligation or is driven by guilt, and while that is true to some degree, Bob’s collective research over more than a dozen years revealed that egoism, that selfish desire to feel good about ourselves, is at the heart of helping others.

Then we went a step farther. Bob noted that helping others is more likely to occur when the person in need appears to be in-group or in-tribe. In other words, we’re more likely to be charitable if it appears the person asking for help is “like me.” The primary way we decide if someone is like us is to look at how they’re dressed. What kind of clothes are they wearing? In his studies, Bob found that soccer (football) fans were more likely to assist someone on the street if they were wearing the jersey of their favorite team. It’s unnerving to think that the clothes you wear could determine whether someone helps you or not.

In our grooving session, Kurt and Tim discussed the impact of social identity and self-identity. We discussed articles by Michael Hogg and Roy Baumeister. We brought in books by Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile and Dan Levitan’s great treatise on the neurological effects of music. And on music, we chatted about how music makes us feel and we cited Semisonic’s “Closing Time” and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony as examples.

Lastly, Bob is interested in hearing from YOU! He’d like listeners to send reports on how the principles of influence are being used in the real world to be included in his next book. If you’d like to be considered for his next work, please send your stories to info@influenceatwork.com

We hope you enjoy our discussion with Bob Cialdini. https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/

Sponsor: The Creative Group, Inc.

This episode is brought to you by Creative Group Inc.  Kurt and Tim have worked with CGI and have found that their process of co-creation of incentive program provides clients with more robust solutions.  Because their incentive and employee engagement programs are co-created, they reflect the truest aspects of the client’s organization and culture. CGI shares our belief that incentives and rewards shouldn’t be used to create brand mercenaries – but instead, should be about creating brand missionaries.  Check them out at https://www.creativegroupinc.com/.

A Note of Gratitude

We are grateful to Bob for sharing his insights with us in this very fun conversation. However, it wouldn’t have happened without the concerted effort of Bobette Gordon. We thank her for her coordination and support to make put make our conversation with Bob a reality.

References

Robert Cialdini, PhD and Influence at Work: https://www.influenceatwork.com/

The Principle of Continuation in Gestalt Psychology. The Continuity Principle: http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Gestalt_principles#Continuity_principle

Daniel Levitin: This is Your Brain on Music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Is_Your_Brain_on_Music

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). “The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation,” Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.

Festinger, L. (1954). “A theory of social comparison processes,” Human Relations, 7, 117–140.

Hogg, M. A. (2001). “Social categorization, depersonalization, and group behavior. In M. A. Hogg & R. S. Tindale (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Group processes (pp. 56–85). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Walton, G., Cohen, G., Cwir, D., and Spencer, S. (2012) “Mere Belonging: The Power of Social Connections,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,, Vol. 102, No. 3, 513–532.

Amabile, T., Kramer, S., Williams, S. (2011) The Progress Principle, Harvard Business Review Press.

Aretha Franklin: “Think” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsL9UL9qbv8

Semisonic: “Closing Time” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGytDsqkQY 

Ludwig von Beethoven: “5th Symphony” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxF7hDsU-HY

Cassette tape: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassette_tape

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This episode is first in a series called Exploring the Principles of Influence, named for Robert Cialdini, PhD’s principles in his 1984 book, Influence. During this and the next 5 mini-grooving sessions, we will discuss Dr. Cialdini’s principles in light of events that are making headlines.

In this episode, we tackle principle #4: Consistency. Dr. Cialdini describes consistency in this way: “Once people make a decision, take a stand or perform an action, they will face an interpersonal pressure to behave in a consistent manner with what they have said or done previously.”

Consistency impacts how we view ourselves and how we are viewed by our familial, social and work communities. Consistency is the foundation of trust, a central element to the success of humankind.

Kurt and Tim discuss how consistency plays a role in two political stalemates in the headlines: one in the United States with the government shutdown and the other in the UK with Brexit. We discuss how politicians are known for flip-flopping without impacting the support of their base enthusiasts. But, we ask, how many times can politicians forego consistency before the base supporters begin defecting? And how does context impact a politician’s need to be consistent? 

Listen to this mini grooving session to get a quick snapshot of these two political stalemates through the lens of Robert Cialdini’s 4th principle of influence: Consistency.

 

www.behavioralgrooves.com

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In this episode, we had a discussion with Ori Brafman about decentralization and how our brains respond to cash and cocaine. Ori is a multiple New York Times bestselling author and is the founder and president of Starfish Leadership as well as the co-founder of the Fully Charged Institute with Tom Rath. He is a Distinguished Teaching Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and his specialties range from organizational culture, employee engagement, business transformation, leadership, to emerging technologies.

More than many of our guests, our talk with Ori touched on a very wide range of topics. We rambled from from distributed trust, gaining power through ceding control in decentralized industries, making a new blockchain currency – called Groove Coins (which would be cool!) – to how being born in Israel and growing up in El Paso, Texas impacted his life, how communities and tribes impact us, how we do or do not imply intent, and to how we use technology, in many ways, is a huge behavioral science experiment.

We also discussed a new podcast that Ori has launched with his brother Rom called “Psychological Mysteries” and how they’re attempting to wrap up some loose ends in the world of psychology. Sort of a fraternal myth-busters approach to solving some common misconceptions of our minds.

Of course, we discussed music and how Ori’s love for serious music (classical and baroque) became evident at an early age, but he didn’t find enough traction to pursue it professionally. Ironically, he discovered some of his baroque heroes at Burning Man while EDM music (EDM = electronic dance music) played in the background. Burning Man, if you are not familiar, is an annual festival of sorts, that attracts nearly 80,000 people to a playa in the middle of the desert near Reno, Nevada in the western United States. Burning Man promotes principles such as radical inclusion, radical self-expression, radical self-reliance and gifting among their top 10. These make for a unique experience according to friends who have attended the week-long cultural experience.

Our time with Ori passed quickly and was filled with lots and lots of laughter. We found that his intellectual rigor lifted us up with new ideas and fresh perspectives and we are grateful to have had a chat with him.

In our grooving session, we started out discussing Richard Mowday’s book, Employee – Organization Linkages: The Psychology of Commitment, Absenteeism, and Turnover, published by Academic Press in 1982.  We also discussed the Psychometrics of Decentralization, from an article in Psychology Today, from June 14, 2018 and some of Rachel Botsman’s interesting work on trust.

Before you listen, we would like your help.  Stars and written reviews help move us up in Apple’s (and other pod services) algorithms for ratings and rankings.  On Apple, all you have to do is click on “Shows” find Behavioral Grooves, scroll down to the bottom (past all our episodes) to rate us AND write a review.  We would greatly appreciate it.

Please enjoy our discussion with Ori Brafman.

Ori’s Books include:

  • Radical Inclusion: What the Post–9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership
  • The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
  • Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do
  • The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success

 

Ori & Rom’s Podcast “Psychological Mysteries” can be found at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/psychological-mysteries/id1434160105?mt=2

To subscribe to Behavioral Grooves, you can do so at any major podcatcher or at Podbean: https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/

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In this special edition, we sat down with Barry Ritholtz, a Wall Street investment maven, host of the podcast Masters In Business, a regular contributor to Bloomberg TV, CNBC and The Street, as well as an author whose pieces appear in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post as well as his blog, The Big Picture.

To say that our conversation with Barry was unconventional is an understatement. We talked for well over an hour about the application of behavioral science in his investment firm, predicting market downturns, Steely Dan, behavioral science researchers, great investors throughout history and personal anecdotes… all of which were as entertaining as they were insightful.

This episode strays from our regular format by including our grooving commentaries as we go through the interview. In other words, we talk about the concepts that our guest brings up as interludes to the live discussion with him.

Barry lets us know – right off the bat – that he is not your average Wall Street investment-firm guy. He is insightful and data-driven. He noted one of his earliest influences was Jack Schwager, author of Market Sense and Nonsense. Schwager’s data-driven position was instantly appealing to Barry. Then Tom Gilovich, PhD brought research into Barry’s purview and fueled a deeper dive into behavioral science. Tom is known for his work on biases and heuristics as well as the enlightening research he contributed to on the hot-hand fallacy, which has recently been challenged.

In Barry’s career, he became aware of small differences in his coworker’s approaches making big differences to their results. It was the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a common cognitive bias in which people of low ability mistakenly assess their cognitive skill as greater than it is. We’ve all had the experience of hearing a friend make grand predictions about something we’re pretty sure they know nearly nothing about.

Barry was also impressed by the research-based Fama-French model and how it addresses three critical basics of investing using data. The model uses three factors to describe stock returns:  1. Market risk.  2. Small company stocks tend to provide better returns than larger company stocks. 2. High book-to-market companies perform better than low book-to-market companies.  

Barry also noted how he has been influenced by Ray Dalio, author and investor, and how much Barry’s science-based college education helped him appreciate and focus his investment approach by using data.

Our musical discussion began with Steely Dan and headed into Steely Dan’s co-founder’s first solo effort, The Nightfly. Donald Fagen recorded and produced The Nightfly in 1982 with audiophile-perfect recording techniques.  We also discussed Barry’s quest to discover the Greatest American Band and the constraints he put on the title. Without constraints, we lack focus, he says, so eligibility required that each band be (a) American born and (b) a band, not an individual with a back-up band.

If you like listening to this episode and the way we edited our conversation with Barry, send us a note! We’d love to hear what you think.

Link to Behavioral Grooves: https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/

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December 31, 2018

Grooving on Too Much Stuff

After the gift-giving holidays – Hanukkah and Christmas – homes and apartments are bursting at the seams with more stuff.  Knick-knacks, novelties, gewgaws, tchotchkes, odds and ends of all sorts are crowding out space where the familiar stuff currently resides.

For most of us, parting with some old familiar goodies requires a change in behavior.  And if you want to make that change, there’s hope! This episode offers some behavioral science to help you with the process.

One of the biggest things you need to overcome is Status Quo Bias. This is the big hairy elephant in the room. We love to hang on to old stuff, in part because our default is to keep stuff, not get rid of it – that’s the status quo. Ridding yourself of old stuff to make way for the new requires overcoming this intensely powerful default. 

Priming. Begin your journey to unload stuff by opening up 3 or 4 bags or boxes and laying them in plain sight. You’re more likely to fill them if they’re open and ready to use than if you must fetch a new one each time you fill the previous one. Make the choice to give something away as easy as possible. 

Joint Comparison.  If you only look at one item at a time, you’ll find a good reason to keep it. Force yourself to compare two or three like items and to rid yourself of one of them. That way, you’re creating an environment where you might say: “This old cookie-sheet is in worse shape than this other cookie sheet and, since I haven’t used it in a year, I’ll give it away.”

Social Accountability. The best solution for cleaning out a kitchen, bathroom or garage to make way for newer things is to enlist the help of a trusted friend or relative. Ideally, they could become recipients for some of your gently-used items; however, the important thing is that having a comrade-in-arms will reduce the probability of assigning ‘save’ to items best identified as ‘give away.’

When/Then Statement. Use a commitment statement to orient your actions, such as, “When I get home from work on Friday night, then I’m going to set out my packing boxes.” And, “When I wake up on Saturday morning, then I’m going to start cleaning out my closet.”

Getting rid of stuff can be difficult, but when space begins to run short, you’re going to be forced to make some decisions. You want plenty of room for all the new stuff that you just received as gifts, don’t you? Then get started!

If you haven’t subscribed, you can check out all our episodes on iTunes, Podbean, Castbox, Stitcher and lots of other podcatchers. https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/

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During 2018, Behavioral Grooves published 44 episodes and expanded our viewers into more than 90 countries. To celebrate our successful first year, Kurt and Tim called out our ten most downloaded episodes from 2018. We hope you check them out.

#10. Behavioral Grooves #1: James Heyman, PhD. In this episode, we discussed research that James conducted with Dan Ariely, PhD while they were both at Berkeley.

#9. David Yokum – Science is Hard. David’s journey from the White House Insights Team to The Lab @ DC, to Brown University (to establish a center for applying behavioral sciences to governmental policies) is remarkable.

#8. Grooving on Cash vs. Non-Cash. For many years, we have been fascinated with why rewards that provide the greatest extrinsic motivation are NOT cash!

#7. Grooving on Applying Behavioral Sciences at Your Office. In this episode, we offer tips on how to put your behavioral science desires into action at the office. 

#6. Nudge-A-Thon with Dr. Christina Gravert. Christina discussed the difference between a nudge and a sludge in this fun conversation. Also, she established Impactually, a behavioral sciences firm with Nurit Nobel, to offer consulting and online classes.

#5. Caroline Webb: Having a Good Day. Our conversation with Caroline rambled from her terrific book to speaking at Davos to singing at Carnegie Hall and even Burning Man! What a life!

#4. Don’t Be Creepy – Data Transparency with Charlotte Blank. Charlotte is the Chief Behavioral Officer at Maritz, Inc., and we had a great discussion about how to use data appropriately.

#3. Grooving on Books: Our Top 10 Recommended books on Behavioral Science. We were pleasantly surprised to hear from so many listeners around the world who shared their own top 10 lists with us. 

#2. Michael Hallsworth: From MINDSCAPE to EAST. Michael’s discoveries of behavioral interventions that worked went hand in hand with many studies that demonstrated what didn’t work. This episode highlights both.

#1: Leaving the Matrix: Annie Duke and insights on how you can improve your thinking! Author and poker player extraordinaire, Annie was a delightful guest offering great insights and great laughs. Note: Check out her mentor Lila Gleitman’s contribution to the English Dictionary!

Thank you all for a wonderful 2018!

If you’ve not subscribed, you can do so with your favorite podcatcher including iTunes, Stitcher, Castbox, Spotify, YouTube and others!

Podbean host: https://behavioralgrooves.podbean.com/

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