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 Louise Ward.
Louise is the Operations Executive at Empathy, looking into connecting brands with a real understanding of how people feel, think and behave. She focuses on researching better ways to do things, such as leadership, self-improvement and networking. She is also the manager of the Behaviour Science Club on LinkedIn and the facilitator for LIFT (‘Leading Ireland’s Future Together’). Let’s see how someone with such a mixed set of experiences answers my questions!
Who or what got you into behavioural science?
Well, to be honest I’m not specifically into ‘behavioural science’ as such. I’m into people and I’m into reading and you don’t need to be into BS to read what are categorised as BS/Marketing/Economics/popular psychology books.
I grew up with my dad working in a big London ad agency and have always been interested in advertising when I left school started working in market research. Then, this June Ogilvy posted on Twitter that Nudgestock 2020 was to be streamed online. I knew Ogilvy and thought that sounded great after following Hay Festival digital. After the second speaker I posted in the chat box that I was keeping a list of the books by the Nudgestock speakers on LinkedIn. A chat reply said that would make a good book group. Prakash Sharma of 1001 Stories in India saw the chat and next day started a LinkedIn group called ‘Behavioural Science Club’. A week later after chats about which book to read he made me a group manager on the page. Six weeks later we have over 1000 members and I am hosting the group as we chat with BS fanatics about books.
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of? And what do you still want to achieve?
I’m proud that I studied as a mature student with 4 small children aged 3-8 years. And I’m proud I’ve raised great kids! But I’m very proud of this new Behavioural Science reading group, of getting Rory Sutherland on board as the first author guest speaker and of managing to get five of the six authors we are reading this year to meet the members in Zoom for Q&A. Currently I’d like to achieve a booking with the sixth! I don’t set goals but just take each day as it comes.
If you weren’t in your line of work, what would you be doing?
I’m always doing short courses in whatever I’m interested in at the time; Microsoft courses, Coursera, EdX - the option for on-line learning is great now. In a perfect world I’d be doing courses I’d love to register for; masters and further degrees but I’m a lifelong learner on whatever I’m interested in which is rewarding enough.
How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life?
Now that like the Behavioural Science Club members I am reading my way through the book club choices it is impacting on all aspects of my life. I listen to a lot of podcasts so now I am listening to the authors like Dan Ariely and Rory Sutherland being interviewed and beh sci related programmes on my morning power walk. Following the authors like Cass Sunstein on Twitter opens all kinds of openings to papers and new books he’s working on. And signing up to lots of beh sci newsletters like the excellent ones by Samuel Salzer and the Behavioural Scientist magazine has opened up all kinds of resources. There are so many ways to educate yourself today and the facilities are there for anyone who is willing to invest the time to follow the work of the behavioural scientist in Warwick Uni or Dilip Solman’s team in Rotman for example.
With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make?
The skills I have constantly employed are to be understanding and empathetic to those who are doing a task for you and to try to accept that because someone is the CEO or the entrepreneur boss does not necessarily mean that they are a natural leader and may struggle with leading by example because their strength is the business insight and not people skills. What I realise now reflecting back is that we are always learning and the wider you cast your interests and network of contacts the wider you open your mind to new ideas and approaches.
A good behavioural scientist is one that asks why of the most basic action that a human makes. The more we peel back the accepted action the wider the opportunity to question why something is done this way and maybe see an alternative.
How do you think behavioural science will develop (in the next 10 years)?
This is a great question for right now because if you look in the job posts it is crawling with beh sci related roles. More and more companies, if they haven’t done already are seeing the value of behavioural economists and behavioural science specialist roles in every line of business that deals with the public. So I think we will really see a surge in industry roles and also with everyone being given an opportunity to broadcast with Zoom events and the other tools that the lesser known behavioural science practitioners in countries like India and Latin America may start to take over where the US/UK in particular have led the field and had the voice in the past.
Which other behavioural scientists would you love to read an interview by?
Well my partner in crime in running the Behavioural Science Club, Prakash Sharma has a wealth of experience and is very dedicated to teaching and spreading the word of Beh Sci as well as being a great fan of Rishi Kapoor in Bollywood film - I feel he’d have an interesting story to tell of his journey into Behavioural Science!
Thank you so much for taking the time to write down these amazing answers Louise I
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!