Get to Know Our Behavioral and Data Sciences Team
If you’re at all familiar with Potential Project, you know that research is at the very core of what we do. Our programs and solutions are so impactful because they’re science-backed and based on hard data — data that our Behavioral and Data Sciences team collects, analyzes, and compiles into actionable information.
Today we want to introduce you to Behavioral and Data Sciences lead Nick Hobson and his team of scientists. We asked Nick to expound on what his team does, why it's so important, a critical distinction between 'research' and 'science', and his hopes for the future of our scientific research at Potential Project.
Meet Nick Hobson – the leader of our Behavioral and Data Sciences team. Nick, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Global Director of Behavioral and Data Sciences. I joined Potential Project (PP) 3½ years ago. I like to say it started as a flirtatious first date, and even though it took some time, it was always love at first sight: I started doing a short-term contracted project. Three months turned to 6 months turned into a full year, with a more in-depth project. Then after a year I jumped into the Director role half-time. Soon, though, I was full-time as Global Director under the officially rebranded Behavioral and Data Sciences Team. Today, it’s a beautiful marriage.
Before PP, I was an academic researcher for 10 years. I have a PhD from the University of Toronto in social psychology and neuroscience. I did extensive discovery research on human ritual behavior, investigating the integral impact of rituals on human cultural evolution. As part of that work, I asked the important question: How can we harness the ancient power of ritual to solve for today’s challenges?
We prefer to use the word 'science' instead of 'research' to describe what our Behavioral and Data Sciences team does. Can you explain why?
The use of ‘science’ instead of ‘research’ to describe the team is intentional. The reason is twofold. First, we are after all trained scientists. That means that we do lots of things in addition to just research alone, including data collection/analysis, intervention designs, literature reviews, and writing. Second, we invoke a scientist’s mindset in all the work that we do, to be able to deliver the most accurate and precise (i.e., scientifically sound) solutions for our clients. One way we like to think of it: All scientists are researchers, but not all researchers are scientists!
Why is science so important at Potential Project?
Science is foundational to our thinking at Potential Project. A large part of our mission is to help our clients uncover the humanity and kindness in the future of work. Easier said than done, right? But with scientific thinking, we have the power of first principles: Going back to the basics of human psychology and understanding the factors that drive behavior change in service of creating that more human world of work. With science and scientific thinking, we have the confidence that our interventions are accurate and precise – that they actually work in changing people and organizations (which are made up of people!) At the end of it, it allows us to go back to our clients and to show them – with numbers and data – that we’ve done what we promised we would do. That’s the first act of kindness.
What does Potential Project’s science and research team look like? What’s special about our processes?
Our team consists of our core scientists and researchers, all of whom have formal PhD training in behavioral or organizational science. Importantly, we’re trained academic scientists with an eye for delivering practical business solutions. We are the scientists who had no interest in staying in academia and doing ‘research for research’s sake’. We wanted to come down from our Ivory Towers and into the real world of organizational life. In that sense, our team is the ideal blend of scientific theorists and practitioners. We are one-part conceptual knowledge and one-part pragmatic execution. The perfect combination to capture both the rigor of science and the feasibility of business solutions. Related to that, we also have an extended team of scientists, a world-class group of psychologists, behavioral/management scientists and economists who belong to the top institutions such as Harvard Business School, ColumbiaBusiness School, and UC-Haas, among others. This top-tier team of thinkers helps to keep us honest in our scientific endeavors and allows us to do our client work with the utmost integrity.
Our processes are rooted in the scientific methodology and evidence-based decision making, but we’re not afraid to rely on other solutions including design thinking and strategy. I push the team to find ways to go beyond our own group and collaborate with our non-science colleagues and clients. Why? Because it makes us better scientists!
What do you hope for the future of Potential Project’s science and research endeavors?
My hope for the future of PP science is that the work we do continues to serve our clients, and that we’re able to use the science of behavior change to allow people to become a better version of themselves at work and beyond. I’m also hopeful that our scientific practice contributes to the broader mission in creating a future of work that is more human.
You can read more about our methodologies and explore our past research reports here. If you’re interested in learning how you can leverage Nick and his team to help create a more human world of work within your organization, we welcome you to get in touch!