BEworks Conversations with Dave DiFelice: Lessons from a decade of applied Behavioral Economics

Posted by Kelly Peters on Dec 13, 2021 2:24:57 PM
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Wrapping up this BEworks Conversations Season 2, we have a special guest joining us for our last episode. As one of BEworks’ founding clients, Dave DiFelice has tackled organizational challenges at Canadian Tire Financial Services using behavioral science for 10 years. That’s an entire decade of learning what it means to embed the science of human behavior into the inner workings of a company.

Listen to host, Kelly Peters, and Dave DiFelice, Vice President of Customer Service and Operations at Canadian Financial Tire Services, reflect on what it means to lead a business embedded with scientific thinking and the broader impact it can have on team dynamic. 


Listen to the podcast here





Kelly PetersThe spirit of BEworks and of the work that you've done it at Canadian Tire Financial Services is all about application of Behavioral Economics. We've been on a journey together for over a decade on the application of behavioral economics. Quite frankly, you and the team were pioneers in this space. Could you talk a little bit about that journey that we've been on?

Dave DiFelice: I'd love to talk about that journey. It's been probably one of the most fun things I've been involved with over my time. I find it fascinating. And I'm not alone: you can see the energy level of the team as you go through various projects. We've got a team that knows our business really well, we've got a real operationally focused team, a lot of tenure, deep knowledge and understanding of our business. And I think it was a beautiful complement to bring behavioral economics theory into the mix. It was disruptive enough to how we normally operate.

I think back to one of the first experiments that we had success with. It was related to an automated transaction or interaction with a customer, and it was a really good intervention point to choose, because there was a lot of volume, a lot of data and something that you could really change quickly and get a good look at and get a gauge. What always struck me about that project was that most effective change was a design that was, in some ways, redundant. It's not something I think we would have come to with an operational mindset. We just never would have thought that adding a step, let alone a redundant step, was going to make anything better.


Kelly Peters: I wanted to delve a little deeper into this category of scientific thinking, and how that applies to how you understand the business? And what were some of the attributes that you would define as characterizing scientific thinking?

Dave DiFelice: One of the things that we've learned over the journey with BEworks has probably been objectivity, or the insistence on measuring things. We are a largely quantitative organization, but I think we actually started to break down even further elements. This is where the training work that we had done was so interesting. One of the great things in a call centers, you've got a lot of people doing something, so you tend to have a lot of metrics involved.

Typically, training has different levels. Was the training good? Did people understand it? Was their behavior changed? Did you achieve the business outcome? So normally, we would go to one or two. But in these scenarios, we actually went all the way. So we took an evidence base towards identifying what the training and what the techniques should be.

Kelly Peters: Scientific thinking evolves both how leaders lead initiatives and find out what's working and what's not working. And project teams can be agile, because they've got better data and feedback to inform their point of view. What are some of the other ways that you've seen that scientific thinking impacts the teams that you lead?

Dave DiFeliceI'll give you an example. In one of the training projects we did, we talked about developing evidence-based training; we'll do the train

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ing, and then we got to figure out how to get the behavior change. At the end of the day, we're asking people to go about the process of their calls a little differently. Some people have been doing this work for 20 years, and all of a sudden, we say ‘Look, we really want you to try some new techniques. Here are some that are proven to work.” And you give them the feedback and show them and they become kind of self-led. That had an impact on the supervisor team: they became really creative and obsessed about how do I start to build these communication habits into the team? There's almost this kind of ripple effect of scientific thinking and inquiry throughout the process. We were aiming at something that was quite small, but in effect, it became much bigger.


Kelly Peters: I know you've been doing this solidly over 10 years with us, but I still meet leaders in the United States and in Canada, Europe around the world who have not yet heard of behavioral economics or they've heard of it, but they just haven't had time to do explore it. I would love to solicit you for advice for these leaders on what to expect from BE and maybe it might be important for them to? 

Dave DiFelice: There's a couple of things I would point out. One is the importance of creating the space in your organization for something like this to happen. I think it's easy for people to become threatened with the idea that there's a different way to do things that may be more productive, so it's really important for senior leaders to role model curiosity and create space. 

When you get involved with behavioral economics you're not buying a solution, I think you're opening up to some really important questions. I think it's ultimately a more fulfilling path than buying solutions. But it can be messy, and it does require getting your sleeves rolled up and getting into it. It requires supporting the team. Not everything will work, some of the things will surprise you that work, some of the things that you thought would work, won't.

If you don't approach that with the right attitude, the goal really needs to be looking for truth and understanding as opposed to wanting every one of these things to produce like I expect, that's a hard way to get into this. You have to go into it looking to develop deeper understanding. There is ultimately a business reward for doing that, but you have to support your team through that.


Get in touch with us today at and find out how we can get you started on your own journey to making an impact.

About BEworks

Founded in 2010, BEworks is the first management consulting firm dedicated to the practice of applying behavioral science to strategy, marketing, operations, and policy challenges. This is our blog.

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