Leading a Business with Aspiration: Getting at the Science of ‘Why’ and ‘How’

Posted by BEworks on Jan 28, 2021 4:29:08 PM

Last week marked the release of our 2021 Choice Architecture Report – BEworks’ flagship anthology of the year. Packed with essays, scientific references, and stories from industry leaders who have teamed up with our behavioral scientists, our report aims to capture the essence of the most pressing issues facing today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. 

At the heart of this year’s report is the theme of aspiration 


Never have we seen better evidence that it is time for leaders to move beyond traditional metrics of success and innovation, and to carve out their niche in a new, and more meaningful, form of capitalism. This past year, societies were ravaged by a pandemic, severe weather events, and protests spurred by persistent inequalities. We should not have to wait for further signs of trouble to understand that we urgently need to strive to build a better world a point of particular importance to modern business leaders, given their unprecedented power to improve the lives of billions the world over. 

In honor of this year’s aspirational sentiments, we celebrated the launch of our report in true BEworks fashion. Our virtual event brought together industry leaders and scientific thinkers from across the globe to contemplate the ways in which leaders might start truly rethinking what it means to be successful. The webinar featured talks by: 

CAR 2021 Blog Headers_Kelly Peters

Quotes_quote 1Behavioral scholar and 
BEworks CEO Kelly Peters kicked off the session by exploring the ways in which the scientific method has been helping businesses solve their most complex problems.  

But looking at the incredible achievements of science applied to industrial settings, Kelly can’t help but feel that something is lacking. And that is a bigger understanding of why businesses make choices the way they do and to what end they pursue their strategies. Kelly believes that behavioral economics can blaze the path towards that understanding.

Skip ahead to 8.50 min. to hear Kelly’s vision of a business future where innovation and a genuine sense of purpose are fused together to create aspiration – a way of seeing success that taps into the needs of the broader stakeholder community of each business. 

CAR 2021 Blog Headers_Dan Ariely

Starting at 13.24 mins. 

Are we rational or are we irrational? It’s a question that triple New York Times bestselling authorpsychologist, and BEworks co-founder Dan Ariely gets quite often. But in the talk he delivered at our launch event, Dan argued that this is actually the wrong question. The right question is: What can we improve? And how do we do it?  

Looking at humanity from this angle is particularly pertinent now given our reflections on the pandemic-dominated year of 2020. There is no doubt that it has reshaped our lives and the fundamental mechanics of work. So what did we learn and what mistakes were made? How do we keep the good changes? And how do we know what is worth keeping in the first place 

In addressing these questions, Dan advocates for a scientific and evidence-based approach. Skip head to 20.05 min to find out how real-life outcomes caught managers at many firms by surprise when they decided to deal with the financial stress of 2020 by cutting employee retirement benefits in order to hold onto salaries. The unexpected psychological backfiring effects triggered by this move offer a crucial lesson about the importance of looking past our intuitions and taking a scientific and behavioral approach to complex challengesespecially where humans are concerned. 

Besides foraying into lessons learned from our mistakes, Dan offered us some insights into the crucial question of how we might establish a productive post-pandemic worker status quo, and the psychological pitfalls that might complicate this journey. 

In many ways, the virtual mode of collaboration which became our norm in 2020 alienated us from aspects of social behavior we didn’t even know we had – from registering the micro-expressions and subtle gestures of our conversation partners to unconsciously sniffing our hands after a handshake to sample their pheromones. So what will happen once  workers begin trickling back to the office, while others choose to remain at home? Will this hybrid mode of communication work out? Dan thinks there are reasons to be sceptical. Skip ahead to 21.30 min to hear Dan’s musings on the topic and then some. 

CAR 2021 Blog Headers_Martin Whittaker

Starting at 30.20 min  

Having received a PhD in environmental risk assessment from Edinburgh University, an MBA from the University of London, and decades of experience with co-founding investment firms and non-profits, our guest speaker Martin Whittaker had many things to say about how business can improveMartin’s unique vision is what led him to found JUST Capital – a financial research non-profit dedicated to transforming the economy into one that serves all stakeholders, including workers, local communities, customers, and the environment.  

Click here (30.20 min) to hear Martin’s take on his company’s mission, and to find out why he feels that the corporate edifice needs fixing.

Declining levels of trust in large companies and even in the concept of capitalism itself are making it clear that leaders need to start thinking differently about their purpose. Might scientific thinking be the key? 

In his discussion with Kelly (38.20 min), Martin argues that a data-driven approach is necessary if we want to business leaders to expand their horizons beyond the current shareholder-centric view of success, and to build a better capitalism. This is because a cognitive shift of such proportions cannot blossom out of wishful thinking. As things stand, markets reward businesses for prioritising shareholders because of widely accepted and pursued KPIs and indices of growth. Thus, we need to equip businesses with new data-driven metrics to pursue – metrics that encapsulate both shareholder value creation and delivery on stakeholder concerns. Only this way can we create an environment that rewards business leaders for acting on a broader set of priorities and solving real societal challenges.  

Quotes_quoe 2data-driven perspective is also the only way to keep track of whether one’s investments into purpose-driven initiatives are truly paying off.

Tune into our recording at 30.20 min to enjoy Martin’s insightsor skip straight ahead to 50.20 min to hear Martin answer Kelly’s tough request of identifying the single most important piece of advice he would like to give to leaders. 

As things stand, markets reward businesses for prioritizing shareholders because of widely accepted and pursued KPIs and indices of growth. Thus, we need to equip businesses with new data-driven metrics to pursue – metrics that encapsulate both shareholder value creation and delivery on stakeholder concerns. 

CAR 2021 Blog Headers_Shy Mindel

Aeronautics engineer turned entrepreneur and CEO Shy Mindell has always had a scientific mindset. His drive towards rigor and evidence-based thinking is what led him to start the company babyark, which is set to launch the first baby car seat in the world with scientifically validated military-grade safety features.  

As the final guest speaker at our event, Shy joined us to discuss how being steeped in scientific thinking and partnering with BEworks revolutionized the way his company thought about their flagship product, and their pricing and communication strategy.  

Shy highlighted the enormous benefits his company reaped when they chose to be scientific about understanding the behavior and preferences of their customersThis approach can be a game-changer because human beings are sometimes completely unaware of the parameters that drive their decisions about the products they end up purchasing. Thus, if we don’t look beyond traditional market research and really ask those deeper questions about what drives consumer choice, we might find that we are designing and marketing product to address the completely wrong set of psychological needs.

Skip ahead to 44.20 mins to hear Shy’s take on what it means to be a scientifically minded brand. 



If you didn’t have the chance to attend our event, we encourage you to check out the recording for a good dose of inspiration on how leaders like yourself can start using behavioral economics to start achieving your high-level aspirations. We hope you enjoy it, and would love to hear from you should you wish to share your thoughts.  

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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