May 28, 2021
Today I am honored to be joined
by Madeline (Maddie) Quinlan, co-founder of Salient. Just like last
week’s guest, Nuala Walsh, you’ve heard Maddie’s voice when she was
part of the contingent who came on to discuss the Global
Association of Applied Behavioral Scientists, or GAABS, when it
first launched in the fall of 2020.
In addition to being head of
membership and a co-founder of GAABS, in her role as a director of
Salient, Maddie works as a behavioral scientist and has expertise
spanning private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. She
focuses primarily on the areas of finance, energy, and risk
management. I also love that her bio states that she believes in
“relentless betterment and radical authenticity” – great word
- [00:06] In today’s episode, I’m
very delighted to introduce you to Maddie Quinlan, co-founder of
- [01:01] In addition to being
head of membership and a co-founder of GAABS, in her role as a
director of Salient, Maddie works as a behavioral scientist and has
expertise spanning private, public, and not-for-profit
- [03:11] Maddie shares more
about who she is and what she does. She has been working
exclusively as a behavioral scientist for the last three years and
prior to that, she worked a lot in finance.
- [04:26] She shares more about
her leap from finance to behavioral science.
- [06:07] She ended up leaving
her job in finance to go from Canada to England to obtain her
master’s degree in behavioral science from the London School of
- [06:46] Melina shares her (very
similar!) story about the moment she knew her destiny was in
- [08:52] Maddie met her business
partner through the program in London and they started Salient in
the middle of doing their dissertations.
- [11:38] If you are really
pursuing something that rings true to you or something that you are
incredibly passionate about...something that really embodies who
you are...it becomes so much more. When you live and work that way,
you end up attracting others with the same perspective and
interests. Then, you can all work together to elevate that common
passion over time. You find your tribe.
- [12:24] Any individual
behavioral scientist can still move things, but if we all band
together then that is where really fundamental and impactful change
- [13:59] Salient was created to
bridge the gap from the academic side and practical application
side and be able to take them to different
- [15:32] In the world of
behavioral science and behavior change, we know that some things
work and we know that a lot of things don’t.
- [16:59] She shares one of her
favorite projects in the pension space.
- [17:33] If you want somebody to
do something you must make it easy.
- [18:57] What people think and
say they want is very different from how they actually behave and
- [21:12] Context definitely
matters when deciding if you start with questions or just jump into
testing. In an ideal world you can do some qualitative testing to
inform your more large and widespread quantitative
- [22:12] They suggest piloting a
lot. It is beneficial for clients, project owners, and behavioral
- [25:10] Just because something
didn’t happen the way you wanted it to, doesn’t mean that it is
bad. It can be a good opportunity to dig in a little bit
- [25:27] The biggest mistake
businesses make when they go to apply behavioral science or
behavioral economics is they start working on the wrong problem and
jump straight into “solving” mode.
- [27:10] The insights on what
doesn’t work are just as valuable as what does.
- [28:39] In her dissertation
study, they found that the meditation group had a measurably higher
rate of temporal (time) discounting than the control and the jazz
condition. People were actually more likely to consume in the
present and choose that smaller “sooner” reward over a larger
- [29:50] We as a field need to
embrace the results instead of feeling like there is a failure in a
null or negative result.
- [32:01] We would never have
more questions if we didn’t run into roadblocks with intended
- [33:42] You really want to
shape your experiments for everything you want to find out and how
you can minimize your confounding variables as much as
- [35:28] If we were to publish
all of the behavioral insights that companies are actually using,
we would all be able to do a lot better. There is a way for us to
come together and share working techniques to help
- [37:31] When we are changing
human behavior, the risk of doing it properly is really high in
some cases. Attention to the quality and rigor with which we are
conducting ourselves in this field is going to be even more
- [39:22] Maddie shares what else
she is looking forward to in the next five years.
- [41:06] She thinks the next
phase of behavioral science will have a bigger focus on
personalization. The next frontier will be tailoring
individualization in behavioral science.
- [43:01] Remember, there is a
person behind every decision.
- [45:02] Melina shares her
- [46:41] Melina’s first
book, What Your Customer
Wants and Can’t Tell You is officially available on Amazon, Bookshop, Barnes
Book Depository, and Booktopia.
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