Your customers (and you) are constantly looking around for cues on what to do and how to behave.

Go to Palm Springs, a desert in California, and you’ll be struck by how many homes have real grass on their front lawns. Palm Springs is a desert. Why do people have real grass in their yards (and what does this have to do with pricing?)

Homes in Palm Springs appear more likely to have grass in their front lawns if their neighbors do, too. Grass in a desert would seem crazy if no one else had it—but if other people have…

This was originally published as a chapter in the book, “Building Behavioral Science in an Organization

A product manager’s role is to oversee the research required to prioritize, design, and develop the features and go-to-market plan that will make a product a success. Doing this well requires a deep understanding of both the customer and market forces. This is where behavioral science comes in.

A behavioral scientist is someone who studies decision-making — why people (your customers) do what they do. This skillset and lens can be helpful at all stages of the product development cycle:

1. Ideation for new product development:

Bring a behavioral scientist…

There’s almost as much sugar in a cup of Raisin Bran than a Snicker’s bar. It’s time to change our breakfast habits

Kristen Berman
PSA: Want to dive into the sugar stats in this article?
go here

No one would give a cigarette to a child. Why? Because smoking kills. But we should also cringe at consuming something else that’s equally as common as smoking used to be: sugary cereal.

While it might not seem like a bowl of Raisin Bran is as dangerous as tobacco, obesity is associated with nearly 1 in 5 deaths yearly in the U.S., according…

In 2018, business-travel spending exceeded $1.4 trillion — and the pandemic erased almost all of it. Switching to video meetings saved Amazon alone $1 billion in 2020. And the smart money says it’s not all coming back: Bill Gates says business travel will shrink by 50%; Delta predicts 20%.

Less business travel makes business sense.

The puzzle

Why did it take a pandemic for companies to realize they were overspending on flights? This was a non-trivial expense — traditional economics suggests that if a firm could have optimized it, they would have. In fact, the opposite happened — they were…

Today’s product and design leaders often rely heavily on the word of their customers when building their product road maps; whether it’s a customer survey or a phone interview, loads of qualitative data through these methods is being collected and used to dictate how to design and develop products. Seems like a foolproof plan, right?

Actually, no — a sole reliance on customer input and feedback is built on an antiquated model of human decision making that assumes humans are rational.

Let’s take a look at why.

The standard advice for getting inside users’ brains is, “talk with them directly.”…

We’re trying something new. We’ll pick 3 papers our team has read and do a quick summary + commentary on them. Let us know if you like this via twitter: @Irrationallabs

— — — —

Summaries this week by Kristen Berman

‘Working’ Remotely? Selection, Treatment, and Market Provision of Remote Work (JMP).

This paper tells a story about remote work and productivity.

In this study, researchers look at results from a Fortune 500 retailer’s experience with remote work. For this retailer, they find that in pre-covid conditions, remote work had an adverse selection problem. Less productive workers opt for remote work.

How did they find this out? They looked at workers…

A sign’s ability to do its job depends on where the sign is located. Robert Frank’s latest book on social norms opens with this reflection on signs — a small sign, with no signs around it, will be more powerful than a large sign with larger signs around it.

This human truth gives businesses an incentive to put up larger and larger signs so that their sign is more noticeable than their neighbor’s sign. In the US, zoning laws are enacted to prevent this domino effect and to maintain a pleasant downtown aesthetic.

Even Houston

Even Houston, famous for its lack of…

As featured in

Libby was new to backpacking. Her first trip was a 4-day trek through the Sierras with a good friend who was far more experienced. Before setting off, they downloaded an app that tracked their speed, elevation gain, and miles.

At the end of the first day, they were eager to see how far and fast they’d gone. Unfortunately, the app showed that their pace was slower than expected. They’d gained 3,000 feet and gone 7 miles, but only managed a 1.7 mph speed.

Libby’s first thought was the most “logical” — they should just walk faster…

Do this 1 thing right from the beginning and users are more likely to stick with you

Jeff Bezos coined the term Day 1 for Amazon. Bezos’s Day 1 represents a mindset of organizational speed and customer obsession. It’s a mindset and a concept to keep team sharp. As a behavioral scientist that has consulted for Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Intuit, Paypal and dozens more consumer tech companies, I’m convinced that product managers and designers also need to have a focus on Day 1, but not a conceptual Day 1 — literally Day 1 of product usage.

There’s no other time customers are more motivated to explore and use your product than on Day 1. Sadly, many product…

as featured in Fortune

“When our environment changes, our automatic habits are disrupted and we’re more open to change,” writes Kristen Berman. GETTY IMAGES

When you’re trying to change a habit, what’s the first thing you learn about yourself?

How quickly you can fail … on incredibly easy tasks.

Have you ever tried to pick up meditation? Not intense, hour-long sessions — just a 10-minute-a-day meditation practice? It’s incredibly difficult.

Why? It’s not about the time — everyone can find 10 minutes in their day. And it’s not about the effort; the task isn’t to drive all the way to a gym and sweat. It’s to sit still — to not do anything. …

Kristen Berman

Thinking about Irrationality. Behavioral Scientist. Co-founder of Irrational Labs and Common Cents Lab.

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