Behavioral Science is Product Management

Kristen Berman is the CEO and co-founder of Irrational Labs.

“We should study what people do versus what they say,” says Kristen Berman, the CEO, and co-founder of Irrational Labs, a behavioral economics consulting design and research firm.

As a behavioral scientist who worked her way up as a product manager for many well-known companies, Kristen knows what she speaks. And on a recent episode of This is Product Management, she took aim squarely at qualitative research and its utility in creating and iterating products:

“The fundamental problem with qualitative research is it’s really nice insights, but it’s hard to detect the noise that people have when they answer these questions, of what is actually predictive of future behavior vs. what is a perception of why [they] did something. And perceptions are great. It’s really cool to get someone’s perception of why they did something or an attitude and belief. It just is really hard to turn that into a prediction, into what I should build for my consumer in the next roadmap setting.”

That’s where behavioral science comes in to map small steps that lead to actual behavior. “We literally care about the small thing that somebody has to do, every single step that it takes to get to the behavior that you’re trying to drive,” she says. “[Behavioral science] is about studying the environment of decision making. How is your consumer making decisions? What small things do they have to do to get to the behavior that you are trying to drive? … I wish more PMs would put that hat on and be really, really rigorous in doing that behavioral diagnosis. I think that would unlock a ton of light bulbs in the process.”

Kristen believes product managers can use the behavioral design process as a shortcut to getting quicker hypotheses. She also believes companies should have behavioral product managers in addition to traditional PMs.

Learn more about Kristen’s take on how behavioral science can fundamentally change product management, as well as how to conduct behavioral diagnoses — and what Seinfeld has to do with any of it — on this episode of This Is Product Management.

Download the transcript:

Here are the highlights: 

  • What’s wrong with the “Five Whys”?
  • What does a behavioral diagnosis look like?
  • Barriers and benefits
  • Perception of friction vs. actual friction
  • Seinfeld and present bias


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