A common thing in my world of behavior change and design is a focus on building empathy by talking to people, sharing their perspectives, and living in their worlds. We talk about not designing for but rather with people, and empathy is required to do that. The truth is that even our best tools don’t really let us inhabit others’ lives. We can gain an understanding and emotional connection, but it’s not quite the real thing of experiencing what they experience. Continue reading When You Don’t Speak the Language, Literally: My Experience with the Japanese Health Care System and Radical Empathy
What happened last week in Portland was shocking. After a man on the light-rail train began yelling what has been described as “hate speech” at two teenage girls, he stabbed three men who tried to intervene and help. Two of them, Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, died. A third, Micah Fletcher, was critically injured. As the world learns what happened, one line of comment I’ve seen is along the lines of: This is why you don’t step in to help. Continue reading The Bystander Effect, Cognitive Biases, and Standing Up for Good
It may seem like a minor thing, but visual displays of corporate values can help employees to internalize those ideals as they go about their work. I’m very interested in the cultural artifacts that make corporate values apparent in the physical workspace–much as Johnson & Johnson does with the display of its Credo in its offices around the world. While having highly visible values doesn’t guarantee that employees live into them, it does help to socialize those values and ensure a base level of familiarity. And when everyday behaviors do align with the physical artifacts that are the topmost level of organizational culture, that’s when the magic happens. Continue reading Making Corporate Values Visible: Livestrong
I came across this sort of goofy article about how people’s personalities shift depending on where they live. Why do I call it goofy? Because insofar as “personality” refers to stable characteristics of an individual, it shouldn’t be especially mutable based on location. But what the article does capture is that the environment we live in goes a long way toward determining how we express those personality traits through behavior. Continue reading Where You Are Is Who You Are: Personality By Geography
About a year ago I participated in a work training around collaboration and culture. We were asked to play a game which involved getting into a pair with someone else around the same height, clasping hands, and attempting to make contact with the partner’s shoulder. The objectives of the game were described as “to win” by “getting more points.” It was not clear exactly who needed to earn those points; that’s where the trouble started.
Continue reading Why Do We Sometimes Compete When We Should Collaborate?
A challenge for public health educators and behavior change experts is helping people who have low levels of health literacy. These people may have difficulty with written communication, understanding medication instructions, or how to care for a chronic condition. Low health literacy is incredibly common, with some groups estimating that as many as 88% of American adults struggle with some aspect of health literacy. Continue reading How Polly Combats Low Health Literacy With Humor and Technology
Certain identities are deeply meaningful for the time and the place in which we live. Being a woman in the 21st century United States carries expectations that were not shared by women in 17th century China and will not be by women in 24th century Argentina. And a woman in the 21st century United States may also be a scientist, police officer, or soldier; she might belong to any racial or ethnic background; she might belong to multiple different cultures; and so forth and so on. So what, you ask? Continue reading Being Both: The Psychology of Identity Integration
I came of age in the time of the tech bubble. I graduated college in the middle of the dot-com crash, and my professional career has coincided with the rise of the modern startup (and lately, the somewhat odd concept of the unicorn, or the startup company valued at $1 billion or higher. There are at least 131 of them.). In my opinion, the working world has changed quite a bit since many of the foundational theories about how organizations function were developed. Do they still work to describe the modern corporate world? Continue reading Can Traditional Organizational Culture Models Describe the Modern Working World?
One of the many ways that people around the world differ from one another is attitudes about choice. While some cultures believe that independent choice is the ideal, others prefer to delegate important choices to specific people or interpret events as a sign of fate or luck. In The Art of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar suggests that cultural narratives around choice–whether it is good to have it or not, how much people want, and what one should do with it–can help promote understanding in others. She writes, Continue reading Choice: The Cultural Keystone?
If you remember the male makeover hit of the early 2000s, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, you’ve heard the song that says “All things just keep getting better.” While this is not generally true (three words for you: fish, tuberculosis, taxes), it actually does seem to have some merit in describing a whole bunch of stuff going on in the world right now. Among the dimensions that have been improving in the past few decades are: Continue reading Some Things Keep Getting Better, But Our Mood Isn’t One of Them