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Charlotte Blank Wants You to Lead Like a Scientist

Jeff Kreisler
Jeff Kreisler
Editor PeopleScience.com and Co-Author “Dollars and Sense”

Editor’s note: Maritz chief behavioral officer Charlotte Blank recently gave a TEDx talk at TEDxClayton.  While the talk itself – Lead Like a Scientist: Why Experiments are the Key to Unleashing the Potential of your Workforce – offers a great roadmap for the future of business (watch it below), I wanted to dig a little deeper into the inspiration for this talk and how it all happened. So I asked questions. I led like a scientist! Below is a short description of her talk, the video of the talk, then a short interview with Charlotte about the talk.  Talk talk talk!  Watch it 100 times and read on…

 

How do you motivate employees and sales partners? Do your incentive programs work? How do you know? If you have no idea, you’re not alone. Leading like a scientist means challenging the status quo and testing new ideas to inspire discretionary effort of your salesforce and employees. What might you try? If you have a hunch, you have a hypothesis.

What led you to this topic?

I’ve been interested in psychology as far back as I can remember. I studied it in school and then went into marketing, thinking that advertising was the closest you could get to applied psychology in a business setting. That was before I learned that there was a whole industry dedicated to motivating people through incentive, recognition and reward.

As CBO of Maritz, the founder and leader of the IRR industry, my job is to oversee our behavioral science practice – holistically including research, understanding and application. My favorite part of my job is geeking out with academics – learning directly from scientific researchers about the nuances of human psychology and performance. But real experts will be the first to tell you that there’s a lot we don’t know! There’s so much more to learn, through field research in real world organizations. Even well-established behavioral theories play out differently in different contexts – and can have substantially different effects on downstream behavior, depending on how the interventions are designed and implemented. I give an example of this in my talk. You won’t know whether and how something will work, until you test it in your own program.

We’ve generated so much knowledge, and value for our clients, by conducting experiments in our programs, that it’s become my personal mission (read: obsession) to inspire all business leaders to start thinking like scientists.

 

Real experts will be the first to tell you that there’s a lot we don’t know! There’s so much more to learn, through field research in real world organizations.

Why did you pursue a TED talk and how did it come about?

Behavioral research requires the full participation of our clients and partners, who trust us with the participant experience of their motivation and event programs. We can’t run experiments without their enthusiastic support. It’s my job to inspire our partners to be as excited about experimentation as I am! That’s where thought leadership and education comes in.

When I was invited to be a part of TEDxClayton, I was overjoyed by the opportunity. My dream is to help start a movement of experimental leadership, and TEDx is a wonderful platform for that. I’m always evangelizing for experimentation. I hope that my talk inspires curiosity and excitement for testing new ideas for workforce motivation.

 

You won’t know whether and how something will work, until you test it in your own program.

Why are you passionate about this (and why should we be, too)?

There’s just such low-hanging fruit in the workforce psychology space. Everyone in the marketing world thinks like scientists (hello, email A/B tests) … but when it comes to employees and channel partners, there has been very little research conducted to date. Far too many incentive and reward programs have remained unchanged and unmeasured for decades. Even small tweaks – carefully designed, tested, and measured – could have outsized impact on ROI! Not to mention, they make a meaningful difference to the workplace experience for employees.

 

Everyone in the marketing world thinks like scientists (hello, email A/B tests) … but when it comes to employees and channel partners, there has been very little research conducted to date.

Anything unexpected, cool, funny, scary about the TEDx process?

I had assumed my fellow TEDx Clayton speakers would all be from the local area but was surprised to encounter an eclectic group from across the country!

The day before our conference, we gathered for stage rehearsals and a group dinner. The stage crew needed some extra time to set up, so we improvised by gathering in a cozy library room of the St. Louis Club. We took turns rehearsing while the rest of the group huddled on a set of old velvet couches to provide feedback and encouragement. I have to say this was surreal, given the impressive mix of people – from industry titans to NFL superstars. We were all so nervous! Being in the same boat together really helped. The hugs and high-fives the next day were genuine. I am surprised and pleased to come out of the TEDx experience feeling like I made a few new friends.

 

Jeff Kreisler
Jeff Kreisler
Editor PeopleScience.com and Co-Author “Dollars and Sense”

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