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What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

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Podcast Episodes

What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

261. Both/And Thinking with Dr. Wendy Smith

In today’s conversation, I am joined by Dr. Wendy Smith, coauthor of Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Tensions to Solve Your Toughest Problems.

I don’t think we realize it all that much, but our lives are full of paradoxes. Questions like: How can we each express our individuality and be a team player? How do we balance work and life? How can we take care of ourselves while supporting others? How can we manage the core business while innovating for the future?

Believe it or not, these are some of the everyday paradoxes that make up our lives. And because our brains tend to default to either/or choices, we choose one option over the other. We deal with uncertainty by asserting certainty. BUT this is not the best way, as you will learn about in today’s conversation with Wendy Smith, a co-author of one of my new favorite books: Both/And Thinking.

Wendy is the Dana J. Johnson Professor of Management and earned her Ph.D. in organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, where she began her intensive research on strategic paradoxes—how leaders and senior teams effectively respond to contradictory, yet interdependent demands. She is a wealth of amazing information and I can’t wait for you to learn from her today.

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IN A RUSH?

HERE'S A 2 MINUTE TIP.

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SHOW NOTES:

  • [00:42] In today’s conversation, I am joined by Dr. Wendy Smith, coauthor of Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Tensions to Solve Your Toughest Problems.
  • [01:46] Wendy is the Dana J. Johnson Professor of Management and faculty director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Lerner College of Business and Economics, at the University of Delaware.
  • [03:57] Wendy shares about herself, her background, and the work she does. She is a professor of organizational behavior and business leadership management. 
  • [06:27] We all experience these tug of wars in our lives. 
  • [09:37] Our decisions really have multiple layers to them. They show up for us as a dilemma – these competing ideas in which you feel like you have to make a decision. 
  • [11:37] Underlying our dilemmas are these paradoxical tensions. 
  • [14:23] It is not that we are constantly trying to choose between always trying to be super disciplined or always trying to be spontaneous. If we go extreme on one side it becomes problematic in so many ways. 
  • [15:36] The goal is to recognize that there is a relationship between discipline and spontaneity and that discipline enables us to be spontaneous as long as we don’t go so extreme. Spontaneity enables us to have more structure in our world. 
  • [17:08] These tensions drive us into either/or thinking. That kind of thinking is limited at best and detrimental at worst. 
  • [19:39] Often when change happens you feel like you have to change significantly and essentially you are throwing out the baby with the bath water by innovating everything.
  • [21:44] Polarization is when you go down a path and you are sure that if you are right about the way you are thinking, someone else must be wrong.
  • [24:35] Businesses should continue to be operationally successful as they move up their S curve. Continue to service your existing customers and be efficient with your existing products and at the same time be scanning, exploring, experimenting, and innovating to figure out what the new S curve looks like. 
  • [27:09] The problem isn’t the problem. The way we are framing and thinking about the problem is the problem. 
  • [28:10] You have to change to stay the same. 
  • [30:56] Wendy shares a story about a group that built an inn to honor and value what was key to the culture of Newfoundland. 
  • [34:04] To keep what you have, you have to change and we should embrace that. 
  • [35:35] Her number one tip for writing a book is just to sit and do it. 
  • [38:04] Wendy and her co-author worked together to structure the ideas of the book. 
  • [40:38] There is something deeply paradoxical about behavioral economics (and Wendy loves that!) 
  • [43:02] Just changing the question will invite you into a whole different way of thinking. 
  • [44:02] Melina’s closing thoughts
  • [45:55] Embracing paradoxes can have a huge impact. There is so much opportunity there.

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