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 Charlotte Blank.
Charlotte is the chief behavioral officer of Maritz, and leads the incentive firm's psychological expertise in designing effective sales channel and employee performance programs. Ever-curious about "what makes us work," She forges the connection between academic theory and business application by championing field experimentation as a means to unleash workforce potential. Let's dive into her answers!
Who or what got you into behavioural science?
I have been in love with psychology as far back as I can remember. I can’t remember any particular thing that sparked my interest in what makes people tick, but I chose Emory for my undergraduate studies because of the strength of their psychology program. I ended up majoring in Neuroscience & Behavioral Biology, an interdisciplinary program that examined human behavior from many angles – psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, evolutionary science, philosophy, even religion. From there, I was hooked. I then pursued a career in advertising, thinking it was the closest I get could get to applied psychology… until I found out about the incentives industry! When I was invited to join Maritz to oversee their applied psychology practice, it was a perfect fit. Now, my role is to lead Maritz’ behavioral expertise in designing effective sales channel and employee performance programs for our Fortune 100 clients. It is truly an applied behavioral scientist’s dream job!
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a Behavioural scientist? And what do you still want to achieve?
I’m proudest of launching the Maritz Field Research Collaborative, to bridge the gap between business and academia. It’s so exciting to partner with some of the most brilliant behavioral scientists in the world in running field experiments within our client programs. Together we’ve uncovered new insights in consumer trust and transparency, prosocial incentives for referral programs, and the surprising backfire effects of loss aversion, among other topics. I’m proud that Maritz isn’t only talking about behavioral science. We are leading like scientists, by running experiments with incredible partners, and publishing what we learn together.
But we’ve barely scratched the surface on our research agenda. There are so many more insights to be uncovered. Over the coming year, I hope to run many more experiments in incentives, rewards, and recognition to find all the nuance and detail about what works best to motivate employees, sales partners, and consumers. We will let you know what we learn!
If you weren’t a behavioural scientist, what would you be doing?
I’m tempted to say something sexy like a writer (nonfiction), but truthfully I’d be in marketing for an auto company. I just love automotive, and like I said, marketing is essentially applied behavioral science.
How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life?
How timely, as I’m currently enjoying Katy Milkman’s new book, How to Change, which is full of useful behavioral life hacks I am eager to try. Generally, I’m a big list-maker… and I like to give myself a boost of “endowed progress” by including some things I’ve already done at the top of my to-do’s. Free check marks!
With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make?
I think the most important skill in behavioral science (and in business) is to be able to distill complexity into a clearly articulated problem to be solved. Isolating the change you’re trying to affect is half the battle. I also find that salesmanship and being able to generate ownership and buy-in is crucial for making experiments happen. As well as having the fortitude and confidence to say, “We don’t know; let’s test that.” Good stewards of behavioral science know how to respond to requests for easy answers with “answerable questions.”
How do you think behavioural science will develop (in the next 10 years)?
I think we’ll continue to see more of a marriage between behavioral science and data science. My company has recently reorganized so that I now oversee both practices in a combined “Behavioral & Decision Sciences” center of excellence. Behavioral science gives us wonderful theory and insight about human beings in general, while data science gives us hyper-specific details about the participants in each client program. They complement each other well as the “why” meets the “what.” I am especially excited to see the behavioral practice of AB testing enhanced with the precision of segmentation and targeting approaches from data science. A more customized approach to experimentation should make us more effective in influencing behavior.
Which other behavioural scientists would you love to read an interview by?
Tami Kim, University of Virginia. Jana Gallus, UCLA. Zak Tormala, Stanford. Linnea Gandhi, Chicago Booth.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Charlotte!
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!