Designing for Behavior Change + Ethics + Tools with Stephen Wendel — DT101 E54

Steve Wendel is the author of Designing for Behavior Change, Founder of the Action Design Network, and head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar. We talk about behavioral problem solving, his new book, ethics and behavior design, and his toolkit for anyone who wants to apply behavioral science now. Show Host: Dawan Stanford

Show Summary

Stephen began working with behavioral science during his years at HelloWallet. He was seeking to create products that were more attuned to the mindset of, and challenges experienced by, its customers. Stephen believes that behavioral science needs to be used not just to better understand our limitations and challenges, but also to help us discover and build the tools and solutions we need to overcome those limitations.

One of Stephen’s goals has been to simplify aspects of behavioral science so that more people can use it in their work. His new book, Designing for Behavior Change, and companion workbook offers readers tools and processes that are accessible, practical, and easy to use.

Stephen also offers his thoughts and advice on how behavioral science can help us rethink how we live, work, and succeed in the current COVID-19 health crisis environment, and how this time is one of tremendous opportunity when it comes to forming new life habits, not just on an individual scale, but on a societal one as well.

Listen in to learn more about:

  • How behavioral science is used in the creation of products and services
  • Ethical questions and challenges that arise in the behavioral science and behavior design fields
  • The synergy between behavioral science and design
  • The new edition of Stephen’s book, Designing for Behavior Change
  • Stephen’s new tool, the Decide Framework
  • Action versus outcome and defining the problem space

Our Guest’s Bio

Dr. Wendel is a behavioral scientist who studies financial behavior and how digital products can help individuals manage their money more effectively. He serves as Head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar, where he leads a team of behavioral scientists and practitioners to conduct original research on saving and investment behavior. Stephen has authored three books on applied behavioral science (Designing for Behavior Change, Improving Employee Benefits, and Spiritual Design) and he founded the non-profit Action Design Network: educating the public on how to apply behavioral research to product development with monthly events in fifteen cities. He has two wonderful kids, who don’t care about behavioral science at all.

Show Highlights

[02:27] Stephen’s introduction to behavioral science and behavior design.
[03:35] How Stephen helps others understand behavioral design and how to apply it.
[04:42] Stephen’s book is a synthesis of what’s being done and the tools being used across the behavioral science and design communities.
[05:47] Stephen discusses his writing process for Designing for Behavior Change.
[06:17] A new section of the book offers real-world examples of behavioral science teams and work.
[06:50] The book offers a guide for those wanting to enter the field.
[06:56] Stephen talks about expanding the book’s ethics section.
[07:49] Stephen built the Decide Framework for the book, synthesizing best practices from behavioral science teams around the world.
[08:36] The way behavioral science ethics have evolved, and how Stephen approaches the ethical challenges inherent in the work.
[09:56] A few real-world examples of abuses of behavioral science and behavior design.
[10:50] Behavioral science can be manipulative.
[12:27] Using behavioral science to better ourselves and to set the ethical tone in our work.
[14:01] Stephen discusses purposefully writing about the ethical challenges in order to give them more visibility in the behavioral science field.
[15:16] How Milton Glaser’s Road to Hell is applicable to behavioral science.
[16:40] More about the Decide Framework and how to use it.
[20:13] The importance of clearly defining the problem before beginning to look for solutions.
[21:20] The difference between focusing on the action versus the outcome.
[22:41] The need to explore all of the potential implications and consequences of what it is you want to accomplish.
[24:55] How to use the companion workbook/toolkit for Designing for Behavior Change.
[27:01] Stephen’s advice to higher education educators wanting to use this toolkit in the current health crisis.
[30:02] Stephen talks about how the Decide Framework can help those who work in the fields of healthcare and public health.
[32:15] Where to find out more about Stephen’s work.
[33:33] Resources Stephen recommends for those wanting to learn more about behavioral science.
[35:29] How thoughtful design and behavioral science complement one another.


Behavioral Technology – get your copy of the workbook (it’s free!)
His Twitter
His LinkedIn
Designing for Behavior Change: Applying Psychology and Behavioral Economics, by Stephen Wendel
Action Design Network
Think Better with Steve Wendel
Turning Intention to Action
Milton Glaser
Milton Glaser’s Road to Hell in 12 Steps
Behavioral Economics
Behavioral Design Hub
Book Recommendation: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
Book Recommendation: Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick, by Wendy Wood
Book Recommendation: More Than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy, by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel
Book Recommendation: The Last Mile: Creating Social and Economic Value from Behavioral Insights, by Dilip Soman
Book Recommendation: Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences by Stephen P. Anderson

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Design for Good + Gut Checks + Seeing Power with George Aye — DT101 E50

Behavioral Design X Service Design with Anne van Lieren — DT101 E40

Behavioral Science + Behavior Change Design + Social Impact with Dustin DiTommaso — DT101 E28

Tell me how the show helps you.

Photo of Dawan Stanford

Your ideas support and develop the show. Tell the world how the Design Thinking 101 Podcast has helped you think and solve like a designer. Then, tell me how I might make it even more helpful.

Cheers ~ Dawan

Fluid Hive's Designing Faciltiation Course

Are you ready to design outstanding events that will engage participants and get the outcomes you need? Fluid Hive's Designing Facilitation Course is a step-by-step design thinking-fueled system for creating and leading events, workshops and meetings that solve problems, save money, and protect your reputation.

Designing Facilitation gives you 32 lessons that walk you through answering our Event Design questions, and 28 Event Design Practice Tools that help you immediately apply your learning. Dawan also offers examples and insight from his decades of experience leading events for thousands of people everywhere from the White House to packed ballrooms, cozy workshop rooms, and online spaces with remote participants.

Design Thinking 101 Courses — Framing

In this self-paced, online course, Framing: Creating Better Solutions by Finding More Valuable Problems to Solve, you will learn to create more effective solutions by understanding the problem you are trying to solve. This is the first course in Fluid Hive's Design Thinking 101 Courses Series.

Creating effective solutions begins with understanding the problem we are trying to solve. Is this problem worth solving? Where should we look to understand our problem? What’s happening inside this problem? How do we define the problem? How do we adjust problem framing as we go? During the course, you will learn to answer these questions and apply them to your work.

Resources — Thinking and Solving Like a Designer


Ask Like a Designer — Monthly articles with design ideas, methods, frameworks, templates, and a question-fueled approach to design-driven innovation. Discover new ways to think and solve like a designer.

Sample pages from inside Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield


Download Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield: a guide to avoiding innovation traps by asking 9 of Fluid Hive's Design Thinking Questions.

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio connects you with people interesed in thinking and solving like a designer.

Enjoy invitations to free, live Studio events. Receive articles, Design Thinking 101 podcast updates, tips, tools, templates, workshop information, and more to help you create and perform!

Innovation Smart Start Webinar

Your next project could be easier, faster and more effective if you play smart at the start. In this webinar Dr. Dawan Stanford will teach you ways to ask like a designer so your projects succeed more often and your revenue grows.