Action Design Radio podcast

Action Design Radio

Action Design Network

Action Design Radio explores a variety of topics through the lens of behavioral science and psychology. Hosts Erik Johnson and Zarak Khan interview experts and practitioners to learn about cutting edge behavioral research, and how to practically apply it to fields like public policy and consumer products. The podcast is supported by the Action Design Network, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2012 to promote the use of behavioral economics and psychology with over 10,000 members across the US and Canada.

36 épisodes

  • Action Design Radio podcast

    Linnea Gandhi - Reducing Noise in Organizations


    It is our pleasure to welcome back Linnea Gandhi to the podcast! Linnea manages the boutique consulting firm BehavioralSight; develops and teaches applied behavioral science courses at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business; is pursuing her Ph.D. at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and lately has been keeping busy with helping to edit and organize the newly published book, “Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment,” written by renowned behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass Sunstein. She also loves her puppies, and your puppies too.   In today’s episode, Erik and Zarak explore with Linnea the differences between bias and noise, as well as the difficulty in designing behavioral interventions that are easy, relatable, and impactful. A lack of psychological safety in corporate culture makes it difficult to even find error and failure in companies, let alone try to improve them. The reason is because professionals (and people in general) are programmed to provide solutions. We’re rewarded for fixing things, or making them better – not so much for pointing out glaring errors that no one has noticed if we don’t have a ready-made answer for how to solve them.   How to address this gap, you ask? Well, you might start with a “noise audit.” Tune in and find out how to get started! Or sign up for her new online class on the subject at
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    Jon Levy - The Art and Science of Cultivating Influence


    Jon Levy is a behavioral scientist best known for his work in influence, human connection, and decision making. He specializes in applying the latest research to transform the way companies (from Fortune 500 brands to startups) approach marketing, sales, consumer engagement, and culture.   Jon joins Zarak and Erik to discuss his most recent book published just last week, “You’re Invited: The Art and Science of Cultivating Influence.” In their interview they cover the origins of The Influencers Dinner, a secret dining experience Jon founded over a decade ago that brings together industry leaders from Nobel laureates, Olympians, celebrities, executives, and overall “interesting people.” Jon was able to apply his understanding of the mechanics of human behavior (such as how people hate networking, but love making friends) to cultivate experiences rooted in emotional concepts like generosity and novelty. The results are events that are more remarkable and meaningful to those involved.   Other topics include the contagiousness of the behaviors of people we surround ourselves with, the connection between social integration and long life, and how to harness the IKEA effect to create a sense of belonging for people without spending big bucks. 
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    Laurel Newman - Behavioral Science in Employee Culture and Human Resources


    As applied behavior science has become more widespread, a need has emerged for guidance on how to build and integrate behavioral science functions within an organization. To help fill this need, our very own Zarak Khan – along with psychology professor turned applied behavioral scientist Laurel Newman – edited a book that was published in March that draws on the collective wisdom of applied behavioral scientists with cross-industry experience. Download a free copy of “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization” at Or you can purchase a Kindle or paperback copy on Amazon, at cost. In today’s episode, Laurel Newman joins Erik and Zarak to discuss the applications of behavioral science to HR. While there’s usually an organizational focus on leadership, Laurel makes the case for more focus on role clarity and role fit. She says that there’s often an opportunity to focus more on putting employees in positions where they feel like there’s a great match between what they’re good at and what the role means for them. Research shows that companies with more intrinsically motivated employees also have happier customers; so employee satisfaction and wellbeing directly benefit a company’s bottom line. Laurel recommends that HR departments – and organizations in general – ask more questions such as: When we teach people information, how do we make it relevant and useful enough for them to have the necessary impact and result in the desired behavior change? How can we avoid silos, and be more honest about investigating and identifying problems? Are we focusing on behavior (dependent variable), or just assuming that the independent variable (such as training) will have the desired impact?
  • Action Design Radio podcast

    Laurel Newman and Zarak Khan - Building Behavioral Science in an Organization


    As applied behavioral science has become more widespread, a need has emerged for guidance on how to build and integrate behavioral science functions within an organization. To help fill this need, our very own Zarak Khan – along with psychology professor turned behavioral scientist Laurel Newman – edited a book that draws on the collective wisdom of applied behavioral scientists with cross-industry experience. Download a free copy of “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization” at Or you can purchase a Kindle or paperback copy on Amazon, at cost. We flip the script on this episode! Zarak and Laurel are interviewed by Christopher Nave, Managing Director of the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences Program at the University of Pennsylvania. They discuss how this book provides practical guidance on building a behavioral science function that has meaningful impact for any organization. Stay tuned for more episodes to come in this series, where we interview other authors and contributors to “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization.”  
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    Logan Ury - How to Not Die Alone


    Description: Logan Ury is the Director of Relationship Science at Hinge, where she leads a research team dedicated to helping people find love and, ultimately, delete the Hinge app. Before joining Hinge, she partnered with Dan Ariely and Kristen Berman to run the behavioral economics unit at Google, advising on marketing and product design strategy across the company. Logan’s new book, “How to Not Die Alone,” will be released on February 2nd. Logan joins Erik and Zarak in this episode to discuss her upcoming book and her journey from Harvard to Google to Hinge, where she takes her expertise in decision-making and applies it to helping people make better decisions about dating and relationships. They tackle questions like why people usually view relationships as different from other behavioral changes they consciously want to improve.   Dating as we know it really only started around the very end of the 19th century. Online dating began around 1994, and dating via smartphone apps only started about 10 years ago. All of these choices and the volume of potential partners is a totally new phenomenon that our brains have not yet adapted to account for. Logan explains that dating, like any other skill, is something we can be bad at, and then through effort we can get better at. Most people have read books about personal finance, or dieted, or worked out with a personal trainer, and done many other things where we spend time and energy trying to improve in important life areas. But her research has found that most of those same people view dating as a “choosing” problem, when it’s really an effort problem.     So whether you’re single or in a committed relationship, get ready to think about the intersection of dating, relationships, and behavior in a brand new way!   Quote: “People don’t think that they need to be taught how to date,” Logan says. “They think that dating is natural. And the logical error there is that dating is not the same as love. So I agree that love is this natural phenomenon, it’s a chemical reaction, it’s the oxytocin, it’s bonding with your child – it’s falling in love, right? It’s all of those things. But dating is not the same as love, and dating is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of humankind.”
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    Michael Hallsworth and Elspeth Kirkman - Applying Behavioral Insights


    The Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) generates and applies behavioral insights to inform policy, improve public services, and deliver results for citizens and society. Over the last decade, BIT has grown from a seven-person unit in the U.K. government to a global social purpose company with offices around the world. Their work in areas like healthcare, humanitarian aid, and economic growth spanned 31 countries just last year.   Michael Hallsworth is the current Managing Director of BIT North America, and Elspeth Kirkman is the previous Managing Director of that unit and current London office Director. They carry a combined 15 years of experience with BIT, and just co-authored a book, “Behavioral Insights,” which was published earlier this month.   Zarak and Erik welcome them both to the show! They discuss the application of behavioral insights and scientific method to real-world problems. This can range from an individual level to help people achieve personal goals, to a grander scale to help affect positive change for entire populations and societies. Other topics include behavioral science concepts that originated in the Enlightenment, and how important it is to constantly test and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, measure the impact wherever possible, and always remain skeptical. 
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    Kelly Leonard - Behavioral Science of Video Calls


    In today's episode we welcome back to the program Kelly Leonard, Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation at Second City Works and host of the "Getting to Yes, And" podcast.   Zarak and Erik chat with Kelly about how they have pivoted their business, which is based on in-person experiences, to digital events. We cover how Second City has had to experiment to produce virtual classes and shows in the Year of COVID-19. Kelly says that improv comedy traits like resilience and change readiness have helped them pivot, and that the application of improv skills has never been more relevant.    Since this is Action Design Radio, and our guest is an improv guru, we cover a lot of ground with Kelly, including why we should go off-camera more when using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, and how during this time we're all dealing with the trauma and loss of things in our lives (both big and small) that used to be cornerstones of our humanity. Oh, and the quest for the best Italian beef in all of Chicagoland.
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    Kurt Nelson and Tim Houlihan - Behavioral Grooves


    Don’t look now – it’s a crossover episode! No, not Alf meets Gilligan’s Island, or The Simpsons meets Family Guy. It’s Behavioral Grooves meets Action Design Radio!   Kurt Nelson is the founder of The Lantern Group, a behavioral design and communication agency, and Tim Houlihan is the founder of the BehaviorAlchemy consultancy. Together, they also team up to host the Behavioral Grooves podcast, where they interview top practitioners and researchers in the various fields of behavioral science, and mix things up with their passion for music.    In today’s episode, they discuss with Erik and Zarak their origin story for how Behavioral Grooves was born, favorite episodes, the evolution of behavioral science in general over the 20+ years they’ve both been working in the field, and its infinite applications. The endless quest for knowledge and a passion for satisfying their curiosity is what keeps them coming back with such enthusiasm for these topics after so many years and 160 episodes across their two podcasts.   Other topics include: "Accidental" behavioral scientists – the bicycle store owner who implements choice architecture, or the manager of a nonprofit organization in Africa who uses social proof to improve public health They may not have sophisticated data or use behavioral language, but they’re running experiments and putting the right tools into action just like behavioral scientists would Understanding failures and how to learn from them Replication issues Yet another plug for Zarak’s favorite beard product, Cowboy Magic – official sponsorship here we come? And of course, what music everyone is groovin’ on these days
  • Action Design Radio podcast

    Stephen Wendel - Designing for Behavior Change, Second Edition


    Stephen Wendel is the Head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar, a leading provider of independent investment research. He and his team of behavioral scientists and practitioners specialize in savings and investing behavior, as well as digital products that help individuals manage their money more effectively. He founded the Action Design Network in 2012 and has authored several books, the most recent of which is titled “Designing for Behavior Change: Applying Psychology and Behavioral Economics – Second Edition.” The book is currently available for purchase on Kindle, and can be pre-ordered in print. You can download the free workbook at   Steve joins Zarak and Erik to discuss his latest book, which describes how people can apply behavioral science in products and communications, and to help people change behavior in intentional and beneficial ways. In conjunction with the Action Design Network and the Behavioral Science & Policy Association, Steve and his team just ran the most comprehensive survey to date of applied behavioral teams across the globe. The diversity in the field has exploded; organizations with applied behavioral teams ranging from Kosovo to Peru participated in this survey, and the results are detailed in Steve's new book, as well as this episode.
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    Michelle Niedziela - Where Neuroscience Meets Behavior


    Michelle Niedziela is the Scientific Director and VP of Innovation at HCD Research, a marketing and consumer sciences company that applies neuroscience tools along with traditional market research methods to help their clients create better products, packaging, and communications for consumers. She also worked as a senior scientist at Johnson & Johnson, and still regularly contributes as a columnist on consumer perspectives to various publications.   What are some things behavioral scientists should know more about neuroscience? When should they work together to enhance what they both do? Zarak, Erik, and Michelle tackle questions like these in today’s episode. As Michelle explains, there are a lot of misconceptions about neuroscience. When you conduct “fancy” neuroscience research, it doesn’t mean giving up good, old-fashioned surveys or qual and quant research methods. They must all be combined to better understand how the consumer experiences a product. “Measuring brain activity doesn’t really tell you anything unless you put it in context, and I feel like the behavioral science gives you that context,” she says.   Other topics include cognitive flow, using neuroscience to increase the effectiveness of OTC (over-the-counter) drugs, and Zarak’s beard care product of choice. Spoiler Alert: it’s called Cowboy Magic.

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