Monday, June 25, 2012

on knowing people

People are interesting.

Interesting, as defined in many ways and identified in even more. But this 'interestingness' is:
  • Casually applied - assuming people do/want things and, for example, designing programs or products to fulfill needs we don't really have, 
  • Sometimes misapplied - misunderstanding findings; overly simplifying complex concepts; and,
  • Often spectacularized - media coverage of psych studies, for example, showing how irrational people are.

Usually, it's ignored.

Last week my Knowable intern, Nicole, and I completed our first round of interviews with psychologists - mainly social psychologists, but also including cognitive, personality, developmental, and evolutionary psychologists. The main goal of the interviews is to begin to catalog some of the ways in which we people are interesting, how we know it, and why it's interesting, or where - outside of academia-  it can be applied. An important and unique component of these interviews is that they're meant to be accessible to a non-academic audience. We want to have these conversations in a way so that anyone and everyone can better understand what's known and start to think about better harnessing it.

The project, which you can begin to read about below, is meant to be a first step in the longer-term goal of connecting academic psychology with business. I'll start to use this space to talk more about what we're finding and how we're planning to make this connection in the short- and long- term. In the meantime, if you're a psychologist and would like to be involved in the project, or are a product designer, developer, or storyteller in business with a particular interest in psychology, let us know.

The gist:

I've been out of academia for nearly ten years.

Working at a start-up, a market research firm, and a consultancy, with many of the largest global brands, I've identified a big opportunity to generate more awareness of psychological findings. From marketing to product development, businesses are hungry to understand why people do what they do; yet they act in absence of the wealth of research that psychologists have amassed.

I'm trying to identify the right way to bridge these worlds of academic psychology and business. Involvement in business for academics can lead to expanded funding opportunities, a new perspective on current research questions, and identification of additional, unanticipated applications. As businesses become aware of the relevance of this research and the minds behind it, they can, in turn, better design their services to meet the needs of users and consumers.

As an effort to begin connecting these worlds, we're creating a quarterly newsletter with an accompanying analog experience, or "box of research" that highlights select psychologists‚ research interests, tastes and perspectives to pique the interest of this different audience. Rather than using published research as our  starting point, we've been conducting interviews for two main reasons:
  1. So that I rely on my own experience in "both worlds‚" to ask mutually relevant and interesting questions
  2. To make the content more approachable (i.e. create a casual, personable context).

In the future, we'd like to help establish more direct links between academics and business people to ask and answer more focused questions. The tagged database of interviews we maintain will help us act as brokers of these relationships.

We're open and eager for feedback. Please contact us with your design, development, or storytelling quandaries. Psychologists, if there are particular applications outside of academia that resonate with you, let us know!