12 Bits of Brilliance: Engaged Interviews

One of my favorite parts of writing Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change was talking to experts for their perspectives.  Each of the twelve chapters of Engaged concludes with a two-page conversation with someone who’s doing exciting work related to that chapter’s topic. The interviews gave me a chance to reconnect with old friends and a convenient excuse to reach out to people I admired but did not yet know. It was a huge side benefit I didn’t anticipate about being an author.

Writing up the interviews was painful–I had to be mindful of both the real estate available within the book (two pages per interview, or fewer than 1000 words) and telling a coherent story. That means that I have a ton of brilliant, engaging, and funny commentary from interviewees that didn’t make the book. I probably agonized about editing the interviews more than any other aspect of the book.

Curious about who’s included? Here are the absolute superstars in Engaged, by chapter and topic. I’m hoping to do a bit more of a deep dive on each of them in later posts.

1. Psychology and Design Belong Together

Heather Cole-Lewis, Ph.D., M.P.H., is Director of Behavioral Science at Johnson & Johnson. I’ve been on conference panels with Heather before and knew she was the perfect person to speak to designing interventions with behavior change.

2. Measurement and Monitoring

Cynthia Castro Sweet, Ph.D. is Senior Director of Clinical Research and Policy at Omada Health. Cynthia’s work at Omada has contributed to one of the most compelling outcomes stories in the digital health space.

3. Making Meaningful Choices

Vic Strecher, Ph.D. M.P.H., was personally meaningful for me, since it was at a company he founded, HealthMedia, that I really became a behavior change designer. Vic is now founder and CEO of Kumanu, where he helps people find their life purpose.

4. Make Decisions Easier

Aline Holzworth holds several titles: Head of Behavioral Science at Pattern Health, principal at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University, and president and co-founder of the Behavior Shop. I find myself citing her weekly, sometimes more often.

5. Diagnosing Ability Blockers

Steve Portigal is a research consultant and author of Interviewing Users and Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries, both of which you should read. He also hosts a podcast, Dollars to Donuts

6. Solving Ability Blockers

Sheryl Cababa is VP of Strategy at Substantial. One of the reasons I wanted to interview Sheryl is her deep thinking about ethics in design. Check out the Tarot Cards of Tech she developed while at Artefact.

7. Designing for Growth

Diana Deibel is a lead designer at Grand Studio. She gave me a glimpse into behavior change design applied to employee performance management, an area rich with opportunity (and hard to find examples of thanks to primarily B2B business models).

8. Design for Connection

I always use Couch to 5k as an example of a brilliant behavior change program. Well, Josh Clark invented it. Today he’s the founder and principal of Big Medium.

9. Connecting with Technology

When I mentioned I was working on this book to a longtime colleague, her first response was that I must talk to Alison Darcy, Ph.D. She was right. Alison is founder and CEO of Woebot Labs, and their Woebot application is fabulous.

10. Design Users Can Believe In

I was a huge fan of two of Sara Wachter-Boettcher‘s books and begged my publisher for an introduction to ask for an interview. Sara is the principal at Rare Union and the author of several books including Design for Real Life with Eric Meyer and Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech. She also co-hosts a podcast called Strong Feelings.

11. Design for the Future Self

I admire the hell out of Kate Wolin, Sc.D.  She’s a behavior scientist who knows how to design effective interventions, and a savvy businessperson who’s founded a successful startup. Get you an interviewee who can do both, right? Kate is currently the principal at Circea.

12. Go Forth and Engage

I know a number of people who’ve worked on teams Kate Lawrence managed, and they speak of her with such affection and respect. Kate specializes in building and nurturing teams, including in her current role as UX Research Director at Akamai Technologies. When it came time to think about bringing the newish discipline of behavior change design to organizations, it was her perspective I wanted most.