Leadership Matters | Behavioral science in the service of organizations and managers

Leadership Matters |  Behavioral science in the service of organizations and managers

This week, Wartha Malik, CEO of BEworks, answers our leadership questions.

Your management consulting firm uses behavioral science to help leaders solve business challenges, finding innovative solutions in the fields of health, finance, sustainability and organizational behavior. How can science and psychology predict consumer behavior?

Humans are social creatures with highly capable brains by nature. Think of all the decisions you have to make in one day. This efficiency comes from using mental shortcuts. We rely on our habits, social cues and the context in which decisions are made. These and other implications for our results are well studied and documented in the fields of psychology and behavioral economics. These studies have revealed predictable patterns in consumer behavior.

Scientific tools make it possible to test new research and strategies within an organization. Able to implement new strategies based on ideas, collect data on their effectiveness, and make decisions based on evidence.

Can you lead workgroups with the same approach?

Many of the principles that make science and psychology more relevant to predicting consumer behavior are also useful for leading task forces. It’s important to remember that our employees are more than cogs in the machine: they’re individuals with complex motivations and unique skills. The more we can adapt our ways of working to the reality of how people think, feel and act, the better off our people and our organizations will be. To do this, we need to rely on existing knowledge to guide strategy, innovate and test new ways of working.

What Affects Employee Decisions?

There are countless factors that influence the decision making of anyone in an organization – from management to the front line. We may be overconfident about the chances of success of our own ideas, fall prey to groupthink and social influence against our own beliefs, and be biased about whose internal employees we hire or promote. By adopting a behavioral and scientific lens, we can begin to shed light on these and other invisible factors.

In this context, what type of management would you recommend to follow?

Studies show that a strong organizational culture that values ​​team members and encourages intrinsic motivation helps keep employees happy and improve business performance. Today, in a hybrid work environment, tensions between employers and employees are increasing. There’s a lot of scrutiny and guarantees, complicated techniques that try to bring everyone back together, but it actually drives people away and destroys trust.

Achieving better team performance requires more than a carrot and a stick: we need to appreciate the nuances of the human mind and our social nature to deploy the impactful solutions organizations want while minimizing backlash.

How Can Behavioral Science Help Employees Thrive in Organizations?

By taking knowledge of the human mind and behavior as a starting point, we can take a human-centered approach to designing workplaces and policies. This approach can be applied to the entire employee lifecycle, from recruiting, to improving productivity and innovation, to preventing burnout and how best to reward employees for their work. Like a physician, a trained behavioral scientist can determine the most effective treatments and approaches to solving organizational problems.

Can we change the behavior of our organizations?

Changing the behavior of organizations involves changing the way individuals, groups, and leaders make decisions and choose strategies.

Leaders must realize that what feels right is not always right. There is already a rich body of science that tells us a lot about how consumers think and make decisions, and this extends to the decision-making of employees and organizations. This evidence-based knowledge helps identify successful strategies, design new approaches, and achieve measurable impact. Governments have already been using this science for years. Companies are realizing the potential, but more can be done.

Answers have been edited for brevity.

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