In this special edition, bestselling author and Forbes contributor, Rodd Wagner, organized a question-and-answer session with Kurt and Tim in front of a live audience to discuss whether behavioral sciences could be applied to corporate environments in ways that allow leaders to manipulate their employees. And, if so, where does that land on the ethical spectrum?

Rodd has grown increasingly intrigued and sometimes concerned that behavioral science has reached a point of refinement and adoption that it could create an unprecedented and unfair imbalance in the social contract between companies and the people who work at them.

For example, IBM claims it can predict with 95 percent accuracy whether someone is about to resign and some companies are experimenting with selection systems in which candidates interact first with robots.

Rodd, Kurt, and Tim are joined by John Harris, currently the Lead UX Design Researcher in the Healthcare Business Group at 3M and was recently a Projects Director at ideas42, a premiere pro-social non-profit organization. John started his career at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and continues to maintain a very pro-social mindset.

Some of the issues covered in our conversation included:  What if corporate leaders can keep their employee satisfaction scores the same by giving employees water bottles rather than raises? What if the “client” was the rank and file of the firm, rather than the leaders?  If nudges are aggregated, do they necessarily become manipulative? Is there a single ethical code that should be applied to every situation?

We hope you join us for this non-traditional approach to our podcast.


Kurt Nelson, PhD: @WhatMotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan


Sponsored by:

Lantern Group:


© 2020 Behavioral Grooves



Rodd Wagner:

John Harris:

Kurt Nelson, PhD:

Tim Houlihan:

Azul Seven:

Rodd Wagner Episode:

Steve Sisler Episode:

Katie Milkman, PhD Episode:

Cristina Bicchieri, PhD Episode:

Victoria Shaffer, PhD Episode:

Patricia Norberg, PhD:

Magical Thinking, Eric Oliver, PhD:

Behavioural Insights Team:

Doug Burgum:

Great Plains Software (now Microsoft Dynamics):


February 16, 2020

Adam Hansen: Beyond Innovation

As a new product and innovation professional, Adam Hansen has always believed in the power of possibility – accepting new approaches, questioning conventional wisdom, and being open to anything. This impulse led him to a career in developing new products for innovative companies such as Mars, Melaleuca and American Harvest, before joining the innovation firm, Ideas To Go, in 2001.

Now as a facilitator, Adam is passionate about helping clients understand their own possibilities—even beyond the scope of their projects—so they take the innovative energy and momentum they gained at ITG back to their own organizations.

Adam is the co-author of Outsmart Your Instincts – How The Behavioral Innovation™ Approach Drives Your Company Forward, which explores the intersection of behavioral science and innovation, revealing simple ways to get past the nonconscious cognitive biases that make innovation unnecessarily difficult.

Adam’s path to innovation process started with an MBA in product management from Indiana University. He also cultivated his passion for New Product Development on the board of the Product Development & Management Association and serving as a volunteer innovation advisor for the National HIV Clinicians’ Network at UCSF.



Adam Hansen:

“Outsmart Your Instincts”:

M&M Mars:

Ideas to Go:


Biases & Heuristics:

Teresa Amabile, PhD “Brilliant but Cruel”:

“Yes, and…”:

Viktor Frankl:

Kurt Lewin:

Johan Huizinga:

Homo Ludens/The Playful Ape:

System 1 / System 2 Thinking:,_Fast_and_Slow

Assumption Busting:

Functional Fixedness:


Progress Principle:

Blood Harmony:

Hammond Organ:

Leslie Speaker:


Rock n Roll:

Major Third Chord:

Major Ninth:

Two-Seventh Resolving to Five:

Linnea Gandhi episode:

John Sweeney episode:

NY Times – Overcoming Your Negativity Bias:

John Cacioppo:

Homo Ludens, by Johan Huizinga:


Musical Links

Iron Butterfly “In A Gadda Da Vida”:

Deep Purple “Smoke on the Water”:

Doobie Brothers “China Grove”:

Steely Dan “Don’t Take Me Alive”:

Monkees “Pleasant Valley Sunday”:

The Thorns “Among the Living”:

Crosby, Stills & Nash:

The Beatles “Rubber Soul”:

The Beatles “Revolver”:

Crowded House “Don’t Dream It’s Over”:

The Beach Boys “God Only Knows”:

Louis Prima “Yes, We Have No Bananas”:

For this episode, we’re republishing a terrific conversation we had with economist and author, Caroline Webb, PhD (in episode 33). We loved her book, How to Have a Good Day, and still do, and we loved talking to her about her work both as an economist and as a musician. On top of that, Caroline is just one of those people that is great to hang out with.

Caroline was educated at Oxford, Cambridge, and the Levy Economics Institute. She has worked at McKinsey & Associates, performed at Carnegie Hall, delivered speeches at the Davos World Economic Forum. And more importantly for our discussion today, Caroline as the author of How to Have a Good Day, a terrific how-to guide that has been published in more than 60 countries.

It’s worth noting that when we talked about How to Have a Good Day, Caroline said that it was the hardest project she’s ever taken on. In fact, it is literally the result of her lifetime’s worth of research and experience. She even admitted that she doesn’t see another book – at least like this one – in her future. We agree that How to Have a Good Day is rich with wisdom beyond the bullet points and we recommend it to our listeners.



Caroline Webb:

How To Have a Good Day:

Personal Why:


Priming Socks:

Carnegie Hall:

Peak End Effect:

System 1 “Automatic”:,_Fast_and_Slow

System 2 “Deliberate”:,_Fast_and_Slow


Musical Links

Donna Summer “I Feel Love”:

Cecilia Chorus:

In this grooving session, Kurt and Tim share how to conduct a behavioral diagnosis. A behavioral diagnosis is a tool we use to uncover the underlying drivers of behavior inside an organization to bring about meaningful change, all with the use of applied behavioral science.

Kurt and Tim have been conducting behavioral diagnoses for many years and have found that leaders often don’t understand why their employees behave the way they do – particularly when it comes to employees response to changes in the workplace.  Leaders all too often expect announcements of corporate changes will be met by rational responses from the employees. However, people are not always rational, and to make things more difficult, don’t understand their own motivational drives.

This renders surveys and employee satisfaction studies irrelevant because theses tools don’t get to the heart of the behavioral beast. In order understand the drivers of employee behavior, you must go below the surface. That’s where the behavioral diagnosis comes in.

The process of a behavioral diagnostic varies from situation to situation, but typically begins with identifying the key strategic objectives through interview key stakeholders (leadership, typically). Then we research the status quo: what is the culture, what programs are in place, what are the current behaviors of the employees and why are they doing those things? Next we conduct interviews and/or focus groups to get at the underlying motivational drives of the employees.

After a complete analysis of trends and available data, Kurt and Tim make recommendations to the leaders and develop interventions to bring about change.

If you’re interested in learning more about a Behavioral Diagnosis for your organization, please contact us so we can start a conversation.

© 2020 Behavioral Grooves

Kurt Nelson: @WhatMotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan


“A Battle Between Sales & Marketing” by Tim Houlihan:

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