Weekly Grooves
The Art of Communicating Risk

The Art of Communicating Risk

October 17, 2020

This week we look at how we communicate risk and uncertainty.  In an article from Harvard Business Review titled, “The Art of Communicating Risk” by Anne Cleaveland, Cussins Newman, and Steven Weber, the authors outline how communicating risk, particularly uncertain risk, is at the very least, difficult.

Sometimes, the recipients of the message are underestimated; however, we are actually pretty good at coping with “straightforward bad news.” Our communication style and frequency matter the most when we face uncertainty, especially in situations where we can’t tell how bad something might be.

The article identifies a common dilemma that firms wrestle with: whether to err on the side of communicating too much or too frequently, OR not enough and too infrequently.  The idea is that both have negative consequences and finding the sweet spot is challenging.

Our discussion focuses a behavioral lens on three directives that companies should consider in risk communication. First, stop improvising. Second, change the metric for success and measure the results. And finally, design risk communications from the beginning. 

We hope you enjoy this week’s discussion of the application of behavioral science and, if you did, please take a moment to give us a quick rating or review. We hope you go out and find your groove this week.



HBR Article: The Art of Communicating Risk: https://hbr.org/2020/09/the-art-of-communicating-risk?utm_campaign=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=97432048&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8nQTZBdA_wxHEidLHYRdp--uNeQFG7seEZUAH681QXpA_PSP5Ql8Qt7Jt9FpF6LLA2Usx4qQ0V2kPMCyGh_d4a-MqrQQ&utm_content=97432148&utm_source=hs_email

Anurag Vaish, co-founder of The Final Mile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anurag-vaish-1987818/?originalSubdomain=in

Teresa Amabile, PhD: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6409

Premortem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-mortem#:~:text=A%20pre%2Dmortem%2C%20or%20premortem,of%20the%20project%20or%20organization.

Improve Productivity by Making Your Workforce Psychologically Safe

Improve Productivity by Making Your Workforce Psychologically Safe

October 9, 2020

We were inspired by a recent article on CNBC’s website by Cory Steig, called “ 'Psychological safety’ at work improves productivity–here are 4 ways to get it, according to a Harvard expert.” The piece reviews some research on psychology safety that Kurt and I have been focused on for years.

Psychological safety is a concept that was identified by Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson from work in the 1990’s. Professor Edmondson defines psychological safety as “a workplace where one feels that one’s voice is welcome with bad news, questions, concerns, half-baked ideas and even mistakes.”  One way we experience this is when we feel that the team has my back through both good and bad. 

Kurt and Tim believe that psychological safety is both undervalued and under-implemented in companies today and we hope listeners can apply some of the key points in this brief discussion to their workplace.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



Kurt Nelson, PhD: Kurt@LanternGroup.com

Tim Houlihan: Tim@BehaviorAlchemy.com  

Psychological Safety at work improves productivity:  https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/05/why-psychological-safety-is-important-at-work-and-how-to-create-it.html

How Making a Mistake in the Interview Could Land You the Job: https://www.vault.com/blogs/interviewing/how-making-a-mistake-in-the-interview-could-land-you-the-job

Re:Work – Google shares much of the insights from Project Aristotle and how to implement them:  https://rework.withgoogle.com/print/guides/5721312655835136/

Forbes article by Shane Snow that overviews Psychological Safety and describes what it is and is not – nice summary that helps clarify key aspects of this concept:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/shanesnow/2020/05/04/how-psychological-safety-actually-works/#51e147dbf864

How to foster psychological safety in virtual meetings: https://hbr.org/2020/08/how-to-foster-psychological-safety-in-virtual-meetings

Elliot Aronson, PhD Coffee Study: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratfall_effect

The Single Largest Driver of Coronavirus Misinformation

The Single Largest Driver of Coronavirus Misinformation

October 3, 2020

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland of The New York Times wrote an article titled, “Study Finds ‘Single Largest Driver’ of Coronavirus Misinformation: Trump.”  The article is based on research from the Cornell Alliance for Science that analyzed over 38 million articles around the world on the pandemic. They found that “Mentions of Trump made up nearly 38% of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic.”

Of the 38 million articles on the pandemic, 1.1 million of them “disseminated, amplified or reported on misinformation related to the pandemic.”  The study found 11 topics of misinformation that were prevalent in these articles – ranging from the pandemic being a hoax facilitated by the Democrats to the virus being a deep state or bioweapon of China to the most common one – miracle cures.

Kurt and Tim decided to break down the discussion into three parts: 1.) The psychology of misinformation.  2.) The messenger effect and 3.) The psychology behind why Donald Trump might be doing this.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



“Study Finds 'Single Largest Driver' of Coronavirus Misinformation: Trump”: https://news.yahoo.com/study-finds-single-largest-driver-120309389.html

CORONAVIRUS MISINFORMATION: Quantifying sources and themes in the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’: https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Evanega-et-al-Coronavirus-misinformationFINAL.pdf

What drove the COVID misinformation ‘infodemic’: https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2020/10/what-drove-the-covid-misinformation-infodemic/

“Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don’t, and Why”: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/43522604


If You Want To Get Ahead FAST, Don’t Be A Jerk

If You Want To Get Ahead FAST, Don’t Be A Jerk

September 25, 2020

This week’s groove comes from an article by Laura Counts from the University of California at Berkley, where she reported on some research by Berkeley Haas professor, Cameron Anderson. Professor Anderson’s research points out that being a jerk, while it might get you some immediate gains, in the long run is a bad strategy.  

In two longitudinal studies that Anderson and his colleagues conducted, they found that “disagreeable individuals did not attain higher power” relative to others. 

This flies in the face of some commonly held beliefs, but this belief stems from availability bias, where some high profile leaders are egotistical and mean.  And as Laura states in her article, “It’s not to say that jerks don’t reach positions of power. It’s just that they don’t get ahead faster than others,”

Kurt and Tim decided to integrate the thoughts of two great ideas into this discussion. The first is Adam Grant in his description of three main social interaction types: Givers, Takers, and Matchers. The other is based on the work of Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, and it’s called the 4 Drive Model. We think both of these approaches add context to Professor Anderson’s work.

We hope you enjoy this episode. If you like it, please share it with a friend, mention us on social media or leave us a review on whichever pod service you use. We hope you go out and find your groove this week!  



“Being a selfish jerk doesn’t get you ahead, research finds,” by Laura Counts, August 31, 2020. https://newsroom.haas.berkeley.edu/research/being-a-selfish-jerk-doesnt-get-you-ahead-research-finds/?utm_source=join1440&utm_medium=email

“People with disagreeable personalities (selfish, combative, and manipulative) do not have an advantage in pursuing power at work.” Anderson, Sharps, Soto and John (2020) https://www.pnas.org/content/117/37/22780

Adam Grant, “Give & Take” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16158498-give-and-take

Lawrence & Nohria, 4 Drive Model: https://www.leadersbeacon.com/how-great-leaders-use-the-4-drive-model-to-impact-employee-motivation/#:~:text=The%204%2DDrive%20Theory%20of,%2C%20and%20to%20Define%20%26%20Defend.

Colleges and the Coronavirus

Colleges and the Coronavirus

September 20, 2020

We got a call recently from Eugen Dimant, a friend of ours who is an associate professor in behavioral and decision sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, about how the University of Michigan was trying to let students know that they should only gather in groups of 25 of less.

Eugen suggested we tee it up as a topical issue for Weekly Grooves and we readily agreed. It led to a discussion about what colleges are doing to regulate student activites to contain the coronavirus, the punishments involved in breaking those regulations, the environment in which students make deicisons on how to behave, and the importance of proper communication.

Also, in this episode we include some of the conversation we had with Eugen, which is a departure from our standard approach and we hope you enjoy it. Eugen’s insights from a  sociological perspective make for important reminders in an age when when the words we choose to communicate impacts whether get sick or not people.

As always, please let us know what you think and share it with a friend or colleague.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves


Eugen Dimant, PhD: https://ppe.sas.upenn.edu/people/eugen-dimant

University of Michigan Tweet: https://twitter.com/UMich/status/1299069416202739712

University of Alabama outbreaks: https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/29/us/university-of-alabama-covid-19-cases-trnd/index.html 


Redefining Old Age

Redefining Old Age

September 4, 2020

Nathan Yau, the head of the FlowingData.com blog site, wrote a piece called “Redefining Old Age” where he explores our changing definition and understanding of what it means to be old. The article starts by looking at various definitions of old age and reminds the reader that the average person’s life expectancy has dramatically increased since the 1930s.  

Kurt and Tim dissect this topic through a behavioral science lens wondering how old age gets redefined when (a) we live so much longer and (b) the psychological and social implications are so different today than they were even two decades ago.

Nathan does an excellent job of reporting the facts in his article and there are three important ones to call out. First, the definition of old age is often dependent upon who you ask. It can start with “Anyone with white hair and glasses” to “About 10-15 years before I expect to die.” The second is that the World Health Organization notes that “old age” is highly dependent on living in a developed country or not. 

The third call-out is that less than 100 years ago, in 1930, only 50% of males and 57% of females made it to the ripe old age of 65. Today, the average life expectancy of males is 77 and females is over 81 years old. That is an enormous change in such a short period of time.

Finally, the article has some very cool graphs that highlight the supporting documentation and we encourage you to check it out. You might even become a fan of FlowingData.com, which gets our enthusiastic support.

Thanks for listening and keep on grooving.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



Redefining Old Age: https://flowingdata.com/2020/08/26/redefining-old-age/?utm_source=join1440&utm_medium=email

Life Expectancy by Country: https://www.worldometers.info/demographics/life-expectancy/

Priming and the Psychology of Memory: https://www.verywellmind.com/priming-and-the-psychology-of-memory-4173092

Dan Buettner “Blue Zones”: https://www.bluezones.com/

Positive vs negative priming of older adult’s generative value: do negative messages impair memory?: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13607863.2016.1239063?journalCode=camh20

Look for new roles for older citizens in an aging America, says Stanford's Laura Carstensen: https://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/february/carstensen-older-americans-021712.html

Tim Urban - Your Life In Weeks: https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/life-weeks.html

Romance and Politics: How to Keep Your Love Alive with Political Differences

Romance and Politics: How to Keep Your Love Alive with Political Differences

August 29, 2020

This week we were inspired by an article in The New York Times by Nicole Pajer called “Can Love Survive This Election?” Nicole’s article confirmed our sneaking suspicions about how romantic relationships may be suffering in the current political climate. She points out how divorces due to political affiliation are on the rise and reports that people using dating sites are searching on political affiliation of potential partners – now more than ever.

So, we decided to look more closely at the topic through a behavioral science lens.

One of our first questions was about whether the social norms around relationships and political identity might be changing. A decade ago, people with different political perspectives could successfully be in close relationships – but what about now?

We hope you enjoy the episode and share it with a friend.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



“Can Love Survive This Election” by Nicole Pajer in The New York Times August 25, 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/25/fashion/weddings/can-love-relationships-survive-this-election.html

Howard Lavin, PhD: https://cla.umn.edu/about/directory/profile/lavine

Eli Finkel, PhD, on “The All or Nothing Marriage”: https://elifinkel.com/allornothingmarriage


What Do Lions, Cow Butts with Painted Eyes and Human Decision Making Have in Common?

What Do Lions, Cow Butts with Painted Eyes and Human Decision Making Have in Common?

August 22, 2020

This week we were inspired by Robby Berman’s article on Big Think.com called “Eyes painted on cow butt’s thwart lion attacks.” It got us thinking about how humans put together stories from things that don’t make sense – just like lions.

The article is about how lions don’t prey on cattle when the cattle have eyes painted on their butts. Lions are what are called ambush predators. That means they want the easiest kills possible. They want to come up on an unsuspecting animal and pounce it quickly…and they won’t do that if the animal appears to be looking at them.

Lions confuse the painted eyes for real eyes. More than simply the inability to process a fake eye from a real eye, lions are susceptible to an optical illusion. Optical illusions happen to be very similar to cognitive illusions (in decision making) in humans.

Kurt and Tim decided to follow this direction: how do people make decisions when the inputs don’t make sense or when there’s too much input data?

This discussion is about human decision making and the challenges we have with using shortcuts (heuristics) to make sense of overwhelming amounts of data.


© 2020 Weekly Grooves


  “Eyes painted on cow butts thwart lion attacks” in BigThink.com by Robby Berman, 12 August, 2020: https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/cow-eye-butt?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

  “TOP 10 MASTERS OF DECEPTION IN THE NATURAL WORLD” http://isciencemag.co.uk/features/top-10-masters-of-deception-in-the-natural-world/

  “’Reality’ is constructed by your brain. Here’s what that means, and why it matters.” By Brian Resnick, Vox, July 2020. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/20978285/optical-illusion-science-humility-reality-polarization

  “How Do Optical Illusions Work?” by Kirk Zamieroski on Inside Science: https://www.insidescience.org/video/how-do-optical-illusions-work

  Common Biases & Heuristics: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XHpBr0VFcaT8wIUpr-9zMIb79dFMgOVFRxIZRybiftI/edit

   Some of our favorite optical illusions…

Cornsweet illusion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornsweet_illusion

Adelson’s Checker-Shadow Illusion: https://www.illusionsindex.org/ir/checkershadow

Poggendorff Illusion: https://www.illusionsindex.org/ir/poggendorff-illusion

Shepard Tables: https://www.illusionsindex.org/i/shepard-scales

Kanizsa Triangle: https://www.illusionsindex.org/i/kanizsa-triangle


3 Reasons Why Dolly Parton is So Likeable

3 Reasons Why Dolly Parton is So Likeable

August 14, 2020

3 Reasons Why Dolly Parton is So Likeable

Today we saw an article in Billboard Magazine by Melinda Newman titled, “Dolly Parton: Steers her Empire Through the Pandemic – and Keeps it Grooving.” Yes, putting “grooving” in the title made it appealing, but the general fascination with Dolly caused us to investigate more deeply.

What we found is what millions of people already know: Dolly Parton is frickin amazing!  Looking back at her 50 years of work –as a singer, actress, and entrepreneur – you get a sense of how amazing she is with all the success in a diverse line of work.

As the article stated, “Everyone sees her as theirs.”  She transcends boundaries by connecting with people from many walks of life.  This is partly due to who she is – she is warm, funny, smart, and likeable but also diverse in her professional offerings.

Melinda Newman’s article was in part spurred because Dolly garnered a lot of publicity with her positive support of Black Lives Matter. Some of the press was caused by an apparent mismatch of her persona and who she really is. Surprise leads to attention and she got it. Plus the way that she stated her support called out white people –  and that was surely an attention-getter.

We hope you enjoy our episode of Weekly Grooves. If you do, please leave us a quick review on the service of your liking.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



Dolly Parton: Steers her empire through the pandemic – and keeps it grooving.”: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/country/9432581/dolly-parton-country-power-players-billboard-cover-story-interview-2020

Psychology Today: Why we are obsessed with celebrities: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-big-questions/200912/why-we-are-obsessed-celebrities

New Yorker Radio Hour with David Remnick: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/dolly-partons-america

Likeability Scale: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/roger-covin/likeable_b_901191.html

To Move Fast, Slow Down: 3 Tips to Make Better Decisions in 15 Minutes

To Move Fast, Slow Down: 3 Tips to Make Better Decisions in 15 Minutes

August 7, 2020

This week we were inspired by an article by Minda Zetlin on Inc.’s webpage titled, “Need to make a difficult decision fast?  Take 15 minutes and do this first.”

The article outlines tips on how to slow down prior to making a key decision in order to improve the quality of the decision you’re making. The basic idea is to move fast, we need to slow down.

In the article, Ms. Zetlin shares how we, particularly in this time of COVID, are dealing with a lot of tough decisions. This causes stress and can potentially lead to decisions that we regret later.   In it, the author suggests that people should take a 15-minute timeout before any significant decision and I quote, “Nearly all business decisions – even very pressing ones – can accommodate a 15-minute delay.”

It's not only a timeout – but a timeout with some very specific steps: She notes, Step 1: 30-60 seconds of vigorous exercise.  Step 2: take some deep breathes. Step 3: pause and process your decision. 

We hope you enjoy this episode. If you do, please leave us a quick review.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



“Need to Make a Difficult Decision Fast? Take 15 Minutes and Do This First,” Minda Zeltin, Inc. Magazine: https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/decision-making-tough-choices-mental-calm-focus.html


Exercising to Relax – Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax


“Endorphins and Exercise: How Intense Does a Workout Have to Be for the ‘High’ to Kick in?”: https://www.wellandgood.com/endorphins-and-exercise/


“Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises and Your Vagus Nerve”: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201705/diaphragmatic-breathing-exercises-and-your-vagus-nerve


“Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy” by A, Bechara, H. Damasio, D. Tranel, and A. Damasio: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/275/5304/1293


Stephen Curtis, PhD in Behavioral Grooves # 148: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/covid-19-crisis-stephen-curtis-on-neuroplasticity-and-creating-the-ideal/


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