37 minutes | Sep 15th 2020

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

Books 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



Other 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




Thank you for listening to the show and looking at the show notes. Send your questions, suggestions, and guest ideas to Dawan and the Fluid Hive team. Cheers ~ Dawan


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