Nuala Walsh

Nuala Walsh is the Founder and CEO of MindEquity Consulting, as well as the Founding Director of the world’s first Global Association of Applied Behavioural Scientists. She is a global business leader, behavioural scientist with decades of experience in Fortune 500 firms.

What motivated you to work on Behavioural Science?
A desire to understand people’s well-intended but sometimes warped decision-making – including my own! I see it as an underutilised source of power and influence in all disciplines and industries. It is also a differentiating capability for organizations and leaders.

What do you think is the future of Behavioural Science in the next five, and ten years? What major challenges do you foresee?
In light of so many government, policy makers and brands establishing BeSci units, it is likely that this will go more mainstream within organizations. I expect that the field will see a lot more personalization and use of technology in interventions. Those leaders that embrace use of behavioral science may well be seen as more human-centric than others.

Which behavioural scientist(s) do you admire the most and why?
• Jennifer Lerner – for applying substantive research in complex domains.
• George Loewenstein – for being contrarian and sticking to his principles.
• Cass Sunstein – for writing two books a year for the last twenty years.
• Daniel Kahneman – for providing such a broad base of intellect to the field.

What advice would you give to a beginner in Behavioural Science? What are some of the crucial skills one has to develop to succeed in this field?
Don’t try to understand everything at one – there is simply too much behavior to analyse
Specialize in one field or area and build from there.
Acquire an academic discipline as a science-based backdrop to interventions.

If you were starting your career again today, what would you do differently?
Learn to play golf earlier.
Listen with a less trusting ear.
Maintain a better work/life balance!

What books/publications would you like to recommend to our readers?
• Focusing, by Max Bazerman
• Misbehaving, by Richard Thaler
• Scarcity, by Mullainathan and Shafir

What is your favourite quote in Behavioural Science?
If individuals are rational, there is no need to protect them against their own choices. Daniel Kahneman

How do you apply the notions of Behavioural Science in your personal life?
Rather than deploying various commitment devices and self-interventions, I tend to analyse daily behaviour through a diagnostic lenz, and often play Spot the Bias. I find being able to label behavioral idiosyncrasies with scientific terms hugely instructive.

If you could interview any one fictional or historical figure, who would you choose and why?
Muhammad Ali – because he was smart, principled, and maintained the courage of his conviction in all facets of his life. The world could have learned more from him. And I would imagine he was a fun interviewee.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
It’s hard to imagine any other fulfilling existence or means of self-actualization when you are in the full throes of self-sacrifice and climbing the ladder. After thirty years in corporate life, I have learned that this is not just possible but as rewarding. Few will believe it until they do it themselves and are removed from the particular path they are following. That’s just human behaviour.

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