Behavioural Science is a rapidly expanding field and everyday new research is being developed in academia, tested and implemented by practitioners in financial organisation, development agencies, government ‘nudge’ units and more. This interview is part of a series interviewing prominent people in the field. And in today's interview the answers are provided by Anna Poreba.
Anna operates at the nexus of business and behavioural science. As a coach and consultant, she has experience in industries as diverse as information technology, luxury goods, FMCG, pharmaceuticals, and MedTech. Besides applying behaviouraldesign in marketing her work focuses on the areas of culture-and change management as well as leadership including mental health. Aside from work, she has countless passions. The main one being equestrian dressage. She approaches life with curiosity, creativity, and an open mind.
Who or what got you into Behavioural Science? For my entire life, my definition of family included around 20 horses. I grew up interacting with sport horses, caring, loving, developing, and learning from them. The horses that would typically end up at our stable were troubled horses –horses which were labelled difficult, unpredictable, and highly dangerous. Horses which have caused serious permanent injuries and fear. It allowed me to study the high complexity of behaviour change. I approached it with all I had: curiosity, determination, my time, intuition, and creativity. Consistency is of importance, small incentives, and commitments to change can lead to a much bigger but still consistent change. Building a foundation of trust takes its time, once established it accelerates behavioural change. Trust needs to be maintained and intensified. Years ago, an accident caused a traumatic brain injury which resulted in cerebral microbleeds. It mostly impacted my physical coordination and memory. I had difficulties remembering to remember and remembering itself as well as forming new memories. My mind felt like a sieve with way too many holes. I experienced the impact of how our brain creates memories personally and became very aware of the existence of memory errors. It cost me a lot of will-power, energy, and effort to fight myself back and I learned that we are capable of much more than we think. On the plus side my short-term memory capacity has increased into an especially useful asset. Of course, this experience was another impulse which drove me towards cognitive science. In my life I was lucky to have access to incredible and supportive mentors, experts in neuroscience, psychology and behavioural science, individuals who empowered me to grow and develop in my own direction upon acquired knowledge. We keep in touch until this day and enjoy intellectual exchange. These relationships have turned into friendship over time.
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a behavioural scientist? A long prepared and recently developed change management framework which puts behavioural science at its core. It is applicable throughout complex M&A, transformation, and integration projects. This framework helps support, accompany, and advise upon change and transformation, in a consistent and measurable way. It focuses on leadership, culture, processes, and structures.
If you weren’t a behavioural economist, what would you be doing? I can imagine that I would most likely want to switch into behavioural science.I hope and I will strive to become one of the women to change the highly disproportional gender ratio on corporate boards of directors. I strongly believe that having more competent and dedicated women at top level is good for business and society. There are many incredible women out there who are ready to tap into their potential. I believe it is finally time.
How do you apply behavioural economics in your personal life? I do value the impact of meditation, sleep and exercising in nature upon my mental health. Some learnings have allowed me to dive deeper into myself including the acknowledgement of the power of the subconscious. Exploring ways to deal with vulnerability, guilt, shame, frustration, the imposter syndrome, rejection, loss, all the heaviness that comes with life’s unforeseen circumstances. I experience beauty more profoundly and re-remember gratefulness and humbleness repeatedly, all of which fascinates me. For me, my life’s journey into behavioural science was at the same time, a journey of self-empowerment and allowed me to experience the consequences of what can happen, if people choose to empower and inspire one another.
With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make? Interpersonal communication skills, curiosity, and creativity! The influences of context upon behaviour are frequently underestimated.The interface of business, cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience is a beautiful, wide, and complex field and I believe that it’s crucial to keep an open mind.
How do you think behavioural economics will develop (in the next 10 years)? I do think that behavioural economics will continue to develop dynamically in the future. I expect an increase of convergence between behavioural insights and related fields such as finance, design, and data-science. I would liketo see behavioural science become the starting point of corporate strategy development.
Which other behavioural economists would you love to read an interview by?
Dirk Revenstorf, Natalia Suska, Susan David, Jule Specht, Robert Sapolsky, Elliot Brown, Zoe Chance, Laurie Santos, Emma Rasiel, Susan Weinschenk, Klaus-Markus Müller, Jamil Zaki, Semir Zeki.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write down these amazing answers Anna! I will most definitely reach out to your recommendations!
As I said before, this interview is part of a larger series which can also be found here on the blog. Make sure you don't miss any of those, nor any of the upcoming interviews!
Keep your eye on Money on the Mind!