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The Brainy Business | Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy | Behavioral Economics

May 21, 2021

Today I am very honored to have Nuala Walsh join me on the show. You have heard her voice before as she was part of the contingent that came on to discuss The Global  Association of Applied Behavioural Scientists or GAABS when it first launched in the fall of 2020. In addition to her work to get that started, she is the founder of a consultancy called MindEquity, which specializes in reputation communications, conduct, culture and behaviour change. She is the former chief marketing officer at Standard Life Aberdeen and also previously worked at Blackrock, Merrill Lynch, and PA Consulting. In addition to her consulting work and research (some of which we discuss today), she is also the vice-chair for UN Women (UK), a member of the Inclusion Advisory Board at The Football Association, on the Gender Taskforce at World Athletics, and more.


Nuala is a smart person doing amazing things to be sure and also just a wonderful human. She was kind enough to be a guest lecturer in my Internal Communications and Change Management course at Texas A&M talking about how to apply behavioral economics into mergers and acquisitions. It was truly a fascinating discussion the students loved. Today we are talking about some research Nuala conducted that ended up as an article in the Harvard Business Review. This research is about blowing the whistle at work and she has made some really important — somewhat surprising — discoveries and recommendations.    


Show Notes:

  • [00:07] I’m very excited to introduce you to Nuala Walsh, to share about the behavioral science of standing up and blowing the whistle at work.
  • [01:02] In addition to Nuala’s work to get GAABS started, she is a founder of a consultancy called MindEquity which specialized in reputation communications, conduct, culture, and behavior change. 
  • [03:45] Nuala is a repeat guest on The Brainy Business podcast. She made her first appearance on the GAABS episode. 
  • [04:22] Nuala shares about her background and who she is.
  • [05:46] She does a huge amount of work for sports in the discrimination space. The purpose is to level the playing field for athletics. 
  • [08:01] Nuala shares how she got into the diversity, equity and inclusion space.
  • [09:47] Nuala shares her experiences working with the UN women’s Association, World Athletics, and Football Association. 
  • [12:38] Melina reflects on a point from Jon Levy’s interview: in business, most hire for competence first, then honesty, and benevolence at some point. Benevolence is actually most important.  
  • [14:13] Diversity starts with actually hiring diversity (not just have them included in the slate of candidates). 
  • [15:09] One thing that companies can do is to listen to the recruitment agencies. The change really starts at the top.    
  • [16:54] Companies should take the outside view and listen to the other groups that have independent objectivity more than themselves.  
  • [19:02] Nuala shares her research about speaking up at work when seeing wrongdoings. Too many people witness the wrongdoing and stay silent. 
  • [19:56] Her work really focused on how to get bystanders to act. 
  • [21:17] 82% of whistleblowers suffer harassment. 60% of those lost their jobs and 17% lost their homes. 10% of those people attempted suicide. That is a high price to pay for speaking up.   
  • [23:47] In her study, only 10% of people even took the first step of figuring out how to report the problem.  
  • [26:14] It is only estimated that 1.4% of employees blow the whistle and actually do something. 
  • [28:24] With a zero-tolerance policy people are not going to be very keen to speak up. 
  • [31:34] The thing that struck Nuala most in her studies was the number of people that found whistleblowing as an act of courage.  
  • [33:41] If somebody prevents some kind of disaster you can make a hero out of that story and celebrate them. It recognizes their work without putting anyone else at risk. 
  • [34:51] When the environment changes, like working from home, people are more likely to report something (or at least say they will)
  • [35:21] Using the courage stories as evidence-based tracking is key. 
  • [38:38] Melina shares her closing thoughts. 
  • [40:11] Melina’s first book, What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You is officially available on AmazonBookshop, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, and Booktopia

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. 

I hope you love everything recommended via The Brainy Business! Everything was independently reviewed and selected by me, Melina Palmer. So you know, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means if you decide to shop from the links on this page (via Amazon or others), The Brainy Business may collect a share of sales or other compensation.

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