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128. How to Build Products That Create Change, An Interview with Matt Wallaert

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Today I am so excited to introduce you to Matt Wallaert, author of Start at the End: How to Build Products that Create Change. One of my favorite quotes from Matt is one that shows how we are kindred spirits. He says, “If behavior is your outcome and science your process, you’re a behavioral scientist. No Ph.D. required.”
Matt was one of the first behavioral scientists to leave academia to work in industry, which he has done for over 15 years now. He was head of behavioral science at Microsoft, the first chief behavioral officer in the healthcare industry while at Clover Health, and has done tons of awesome projects along the way (some of which you will learn about in today’s episode).
During our conversation, we discuss lots of concepts that have past episodes on the show, including those on anchoring, relativity, how to finally change your behavior, how to experiment, and many more.

Show Notes:

  • [00:43] Today I am so excited to introduce you to Matt Wallaert, author of Start at the End: How to Build Products that Create Change.
  • [03:28] Matt shares his story and how he got interested in behavioral science. 
  • [05:06] After taking a second psychology class in college, he became addicted to science and started doing a lot of applied work. 
  • [07:56] He left Clover Health in March and ended up moving to California for a year of adventure. 
  • [09:41] He has decided in his next role that he wants to spend most of his time pivoting an organization to behavioral science. 
  • [11:01] Advances in data science and user research have prepared younger project managers to fully embrace behavioral science. 
  • [13:12] People often don’t think of the implications of the things that they say. 
  • [13:30] Every industry has its own beliefs about what can’t be changed (listen to episode 126 for Melina’s tips on fixing this in your organization).
  • [14:51] Behavioral science can be used in good ways and in bad ways (ethics matter!). 
  • [16:49] It is really hard to write a complete behavioral statement from the beginning. 
  • [17:17] Matt shares about the GetRaised project he worked on. 
  • [19:04] Bias creeps in when we start to do ratings of performance. 
  • [20:28] The difference between junior behavioral scientists and more senior behavioral scientists is just experience. Anyone can learn the framework. 
  • [22:08] A lot of communication is just quick analogy making. It is the ability to find out what someone is interested in and relate that to the thing you are teaching. 
  • [24:37] Our brain is using the same rules and concepts whether we are deciding to litter or choosing a brand of toothpaste. 
  • [25:37] When you try to replicate a lab study in real life sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The key is that you tried it small before you shared it with everybody. (Get Melina’s tips for creating your own experiments in episode 63.)
  • [26:47] Science is the testing of all assumptions. Diversity can help identify an assumption. 
  • [28:08] Behavioral science is a lifestyle. 
  • [28:59] Academic behavioral science is about the why of the way things are. Applied behavioral science is the changing of the way things are
  • [30:20] Almost all misunderstandings across cultural and other kinds of borders are due to a misunderstanding of the pressures that affect that other persons’ life. It almost always makes sense if you understand the context. 
  • [32:06] Melina shares Steve Wendel’s story about a fish in the sand (hear more from Steve in episode 116). 
  • [34:33] It is easier to have a discussion with the people that we can relate to than to have a more difficult conversation. 
  • [35:36] Matt says, “If behavior is your outcome and science your process, you’re a behavioral scientist. No Ph.D. required.”
  • [36:27] Behavioral science thrives when lots of people are doing it and doing it a little better every day. If it does not put behavior as an outcome, it is not behavioral science. 
  • [37:05] Behavioral science is about creating a specific outcome in advance and then using science as a process. 
  • [39:46] Get your own copy of Matt’s book, Start at the End: How to Build Products that Create Change.
  • [42:32] Don’t forget to take advantage of the year-end sale going on now.

Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show. 

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