Thinkers50 in 50 Seconds: Zoë Chance

A professor at the Yale School of Management, Zoë Chance examines persuasion and decision-making through the lens of behavioural economics. Her research findings have been published in top academic journals and her 4Ps Framework for Behaviour Change is the foundation for Google’s global food guidelines, helping 60,000 people make healthier choices every day. Her TEDx talk on influencing behavioural change is called “How to make a behaviour addictive.” She formerly worked in marketing for Mattel, creators of Barbie.

What book are you currently reading?

Love Does, by Bob Goff. It could change your life. And if you read only one chapter, make it “The Interviews.”

How do you describe what you do?

Study influence and share insights to help people get more of what they want, and do more great things.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Great science fiction writers, and here’s why. I didn’t realize until I started teaching workshops on influence that the biggest obstacle to fulfilling bold, audacious, world-changing dreams isn’t fear, or skills, or resources. The biggest obstacle for almost all of us is dreaming small. We don’t really know what we want, and we can’t envision any reality much different from the one we live in. If we imagine a radical improvement in our lives or the world, our brains immediately start answering Why It Won’t Happen. Science fiction writers model the opposite type of thinking. When they have a radical idea, they answer How It Could Happen, and What Would Happen Then. This is how we can create a better future.

What does success look like?

Being master of your time.

What is your competitive advantage?

Being able to connect with people.

How do you keep your thinking fresh?

Curiosity and diversity. Getting to know amazing people who are different from me, attending workshops, reading outside my field, trying almost anything once.

How much time do you spend travelling?

Feels like a lot.

What is the secret of a great presentation?

Focusing all your attention on the audience, in preparation and delivery.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Most people who ask me this question shouldn’t follow in my footsteps at all. They want the public recognition and the platform, but would hate the route that got me there: many years of nerdy, lonely academic research in a critical environment. If you want to be a thought leader, forget the PhD—save yourself a decade of misery and write a book.

What is your next goal?

I’m working on my first book, on how to use insights from behavioural economics to influence people without being creepy. Fun, thought-provoking, and practical.

Describe yourself in three words.

Curious, bold, grateful

Follow Zoë on Twitter @zoebchance.

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