Behavior Matters! | Harnessing the power of behavioral science to improve how organizations, leaders, and people work

Podcast Mania!

As the popularity of the Behavioral Grooves podcast continues to skyrocket, cohost Kurt Nelson, PHD – President and founder of The Lantern Group – has been featured across the airwaves (podwaves?) on an exciting and growing list of podcasts of all shapes and sizes.

Emotions, Performance, Motivation, Culture, Running and more all involve Behavioral Science

Below is a list of the most recent features with a quick blurb about the subject. There are lots of fun conversations here, so check them out and give one (or all) a listen and share!

Also, keep an eye out on “Chit Chat with a Queer Coach” for Mellissa Dasilva’s upcoming interview with Kurt and be sure to check out Behavioral Grooves cohost Tim Houlihan’s recent interview with Melina Palmer on the Brainy Business Podcast on the Secrets of Motivation and Incentives.    

Some of these are established podcast but many of these are new and growing – show them some love with a share, listen, subscription, follow or like, and let’s help the community grow!

If you know of or run a podcast you think would benefit from a behavioral conversation, reach out below.

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Is Organizational Friction Costing you Money?

Organizational friction is not a common term, yet it could be one of the biggest reasons that your company is not performing to its full potential.

How much is friction costing you?

Friction in human terms is the unnecessary resistance that a person encounters when trying to achieve a task. Organizational friction is the resistance created by policy, social, or environmental factors within a company.

Bad organization friction creates unnecessary resistance within an organization and impedes performance. It causes wasted time, wasted energy wasted resources, and overall frustration. Good organizational friction creates positive resistance that discourages negative behavior, sloppy thinking or risky shortcuts. 

Bad organizational friction impacts employees in multiple ways. It makes tasks longer, and more prohibitive which in turn can sap our motivation. The more friction that is present the less likely we are to partake in a positive behavior. Inversely, as Jeff Bezos states, “When you reduce friction, make something easy, people do more of it.” 

Let’s set the stage with a simple example of each type of organizational friction and the losses it can correlate to.

  • Policy – this is friction resulting from organizational policy or rules such as a manager requiring all team members to attend an hour-long meeting 2x per week when 10 of them only need to be in the meeting for 15 mins. Say those employees average $30/ hour. That’s $30 (hour wage) x .75 (wasted time in meeting) x 52 (weeks per year) x 10 (employees who could leave meeting after 15 minutes) = $11,700 in salary on one team alone, not accounting for billable hours and productivity. What if you have 100 teams all doing the same? 1,000 teams?
  • Social – this is friction that is caused by social norms or cultural expectations. Traditional hierarchy can lead to this type of organizational friction. If you create a culture that doesn’t encourage open dialogue and respond well to constructive criticism of leadership, employees will be scared to speak up because of the fear of negative social consequences. This can inhibit an employee from bringing up an issue that could have been avoided, such as doubling down on sunk costs, falling victim to groupthink, or making a poor strategic decision. These are some of the costliest mistakes an organization can make.
  • Environmental – this friction is caused when the infrastructure or processes in place create resistance to positive behaviors. Imagine creating an employee health challenge that encourages exercise during the day, but not providing access to shower facilities. Employees will be less likely to partake in the challenge if they need to go elsewhere to shower before going back to work.

Roger Dooley, a neuromarketer, first introduced us to this concept on The Behavioral Grooves podcast and in his book Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage (link).

In the book, he uses the metaphor of a slide (the playground type, not the PowerPoint type, although PowerPoints can cause friction too). Think of behavior as being driven by the following*: a nudge (the initial push off of the top of the slide), the angle (the slope of the slide can be steep or shallow providing different motivation), and friction (the resistance to easily going down the slide).   

Companies can face friction in any number of places. Organizational friction inhibits employees from operating at their full potential. A report by Newtronix estimated $1.8 trillion is lost each year in the US alone due to barriers in workforce productivity.

Knowledge workers spend over 80% of their time in meetings and responding to requests. The average time an employee works before being interrupted is around 12-minutes. For an average company, each email that is sent costs roughly a dollar in labor costs – a midsize firm can easily spend over $1 million dollars a year, just on email.

Each of these factors has a cost to them. They reduce employee productivity, increase their stress level, lead to disengagement, and increase turnover – inevitably costing your organization money.

Some other examples of organizational friction points include:

  • Routing all expense reports through two layers of management
  • Communication that isn’t clear or well understood so employees need additional clarification on what they need to know or do
  • Copying more people on an e-mail than necessary
  • Requiring team members to come to an hour-long meeting when they are really only needed for 5-minutes
  • A culture that doesn’t support speaking out and is always deferential to those in higher leadership positions
  • Social norms about how much work gets done in a shift

If companies can identify where these friction points are and then remove them (or reduce them), the impact on the bottom line would be significant.  It is an unseen cost that is draining the energy and performance of people from across the organization. 

Navigate the slides below to see how The Lantern Group eases friction in organizations using behavioral insights.

The Lantern Group’s Solution to Organizational Friction

*Roger also includes gravity as one of the key aspects here but it doesn’t apply specifically to our discussion, so I left it out.  If you want to find out more, here is a really good short article on Dooley’s persuasion slide in a UX context

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Shaping Company Culture Through Communication

Words matter.

A study conducted by Gary Latham PhD, replaced 12 words in an e-mail from a company president to his employees to demonstrate the power of word choice.

 A Powerful Reinforcement Loop With a Common Thread
A Powerful Reinforcement Loop With a Common Thread

Half of the company received the president’s original e-mail and half of the company received the same e-mail with 12 achievement-focused words added in. The result? After a week, objectively measured performance showed an increase in effectiveness by 15% and efficiency by 35% for the employees who received the achievement centric email.

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Good Prime – Bad Prime

Priming, in relation to human behavior, is the idea that exposure to an external stimulus can subconsciously trigger our brains to drive specific behaviors.

messaging and communicating

A study in Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” examined how a simple word could prime the brain to think differently in a similar situation. Subjects were exposed to one of two words and then shown the letters “SO_P” and asked to fill in the blank.

People who were exposed to the word “eat” prior to the exercise were more likely to fill in the letter “U” (SOUP), and those exposed to the word “shower” were more like to fill in the letter “A” (SOAP).

In this situation, the first word they were exposed to impacted their interpretation of the blank letter and completed word. This is a simple example, but priming can also cause us to unconsciously engage in behaviors both good and bad.

Let’s looks at some examples in the real world. 

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The Key to a Great Company: Great Culture

Have you ever experienced a company with a culture so powerful that you notice it immediately? There is a positive tone in the conversation, a joyful way in which people interact, a different feeling that you get walking through the door.    

Those companies are rare.   

It is more likely you’ve experienced a company with a culture that is toxic. One where the tone of the conversation is so negative that it instantly brings you down, were the interactions between employees seem hostile, and where you would like to run out the door shortly after entering.   

Luckily, those companies are also rare.  

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Identifying the Root Cause – Employee Issues are Human Issues

By Kurt Nelson, Ph.D.

If only employees were robots. 

If we were robots, then when we are underperforming or not working, a simple diagnostic process would show us where the issue is. We would need to determine if it was a hardware or software issue, work through the bugs, and identify the component issues. It might be hard, but it is a structured process that a sound engineer can handle. And in the end, you know when you get it right because the issue is solved.  

But we are not robots. We are human.   

Employees are not robots

We are complex, context-driven, emotional, overstressed, and irrational. We often tell people what we think they want to hear, not what we really feel. We tend to avoid conflict and repress our feelings. Hell, we don’t even understand our feelings a lot of the time.  

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Communication is Key and we are Messing it up!

By Kurt Nelson, Ph.D. & Ben Granlund

Overall, organizations communicate poorly. There, we said it.

Whether it’s too much, too little, bad messaging, or something else – corporations struggle to communicate impactfully with their employees. 

corporations struggle to communicate
How Many Companies Communicate

This is a much larger problem than most people or companies realize. 

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Misinformation and the Corona Virus: How We Respond Matters

I’m a behavioral scientist at heart. I look at the numbers and the data and think about how people respond. Right now, I don’t think a lot of people are responding very well.

In the past few days, I’ve seen Facebook posts talking about how overblown and hyped up the coronavirus pandemic is.

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How to Apply Behavioral Science in Your Job (And Why it Matters)

By Kurt Nelson, Ph.D. & Ben Granlund

Would being able to understand the underlying reasons why you and others “do the things you do” be helpful to you in your job?  Is there value in having the knowledge to be able to predict and understand people’s responses to your requests or changes?  How about being able to anticipate how people will most likely respond in a given situation or environment?  Would the ability to make more rational and sound decisions help you in moving your business forward?

For most people, that answer is “yes.” 

Most of us work in an environment that involves some level of involvement and interaction with other people. Whether it be coworkers, bosses, employees, vendors, or customers – at some point in your workday, there is likely a human involved.   

How you interact with those humans can change how they respond. 

We need to be able to work effectively with those humans. If we can understand and empathize with their underlying drives, decipher how they are interpreting our words and actions, and anticipate how they will respond to what we do, our interactions with them will be significantly improved. 

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The Top 5 Reasons Businesses Need Behavioral Science

By Kurt Nelson, Ph.D. & Ben Granlund

Imagine getting the chance to earn $2 for doing absolutely nothing. Would you turn this down?  Most people say no, yet study after study shows that people often refuse the $2 payout, sometimes more.

You’re probably wondering, “why?”

This strange behavior comes down to how we perceive fairness and retribution and can be observed in a simulation behavioral scientists call “the Ultimatum Game.”

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