Interview with Matej Šucha from Mindworx, the first behavioral consultancy in CEE by Michal Tomek
They say you need to practice 10,000 hours to gain a new skill. Alternatively, you should repeat a new habit at least for 21 days to embrace it in your daily life. Well, Matej Sucha disagrees. And he knows what he is talking about.
For the past six years, people’s behavior is at the center of his focus, and for the past four years of his business as well. The field is called behavioral economics, and it is not something you come across very often, especially in Slovakia.
Both mathematics and psychology
"Behavioral economics maps how our minds work and try to predict our irrationality,” explains Matej. “When I was at the college in Denmark, I got ahold of one of Dan Ariely’s book. I have been fascinated ever since. It’s so amazing that thanks to the behavioral economics I can look for patterns in people’s behavior and try to communicate with them more convincingly, more effectively, and help them adjust their habits.”
Behavioral economics lies somewhere between the hard facts of mathematics and abstract psychology. You know the actual state of things, you have a goal, and now you need to come up with a hypothesis on how to change people’s behavior according to the target. "It’s not mathematics where two plus two is four. Every hypothesis needs to be tested in the field.”
The goals are always set according to what clients need. Is it a higher conversion? Is it a better sales process? Do they need to adjust employees’ habits? This is precisely what Matej’s company Mindworx can help with.
As Slovak pioneers in behavioral economics, their path has not been straightforward though. No one in Slovakia was implementing behavioral economics in business before, so Matej and his co-founder Tomas had to start small. Talks at events, first workshops, first articles explaining what this field is and how it can help businesses evolve.
“Being a consultant in behavioral economics in Slovakia when no one knew about us wouldn‘t have brought any cash-flow in. Therefore we decided to organize paid workshops on sales and persuasiveness.” One of the spaces Mindworx gave their lecture was Campus.
“I knew Marek Zamecnik (one of the Campus co-founders) from high school. We met one day at a gym, and he asked me to give a talk on behavioral economics.” It was also around the time when the first intern joined the team, and, thus, they started to feel the need for a background. “We couldn’t operate in such a guerilla mode anymore. So, we tried Campus.”
Initially, Matej was worried about the working environment and too much noise in a coworking space. “I was a bit biased and was thinking whether it‘s no better to have our own place.” Today, after more than a year, the last thing they think of is to leave.
The team occupies three fix desks and two hotdesks. “The truth is I can’t imagine working without earphones, but that is not an issue at all. On the other hand, there are loads of benefits which make the experience perfect.” Cleaning, printers, meeting rooms, cafe, bar are all on Matej‘s list. “All of these being taken care of is a big help in our daily work. Objectively, it would cost us less if we went to our own office. However, all the positives of Campus compensate for the money.“
Matej especially points out the awesome community starting with the community manager Sandra. “There is a diverse community of people who can help you or whom you can help, and great synergies can be created. Moreover, you have plenty of parking spots around,” laughs Matej.
Always start small
Many times, Mindworx got an opportunity to promote themselves and their brand and to get to engaging events or conference thanks to Campus. „The coworking space is more startup-oriented, and our clients come predominantly from the corporate world. However, we successfully cooperate with Taxify, one of the startups in Campus.“
One of Mindworx‘s first more significant clients they met at their workshops was the health insurance company Dovera. “They were visionary and believed in what we were doing.” The first project they did aimed at Dovera’s diabetes clients whom they wanted to help change their routines. According to the research, you have a lot in your own hands if you have diabetes depending on what you eat and how much you exercise.
“There is a method called Tiny Habits. If you want to change your behavior, you need to start with small daily routines and connect them with a positive association.” If your goal is to start running every day, the worst thing to do is to try a ten-kilometer long run at the very first day. You come back almost dead, throwing up the rest of the day. Moreover, you never put the running shoes on again.
On the other hand, if you just first learn to put on the shoes, have a walk around your building and enjoy breakfast afterward as a treat, there’s a high chance you‘ll stick to the routine and gradually give yourself more daring challenges.
A four-step process
When working with corporations and bigger businesses, first they do a behavioral audit which helps to understand the current situation in the company. „We go through data, gain our own insights via discussions and interviews. To give an example – usually, when people are not buying as you wish, you always ask how to make them buy. Instead, you should be asking why they are not buying. It’s quite a counterintuitive question.”
The second phase is a proposal of potential solutions followed by the third phase – implementation. It can take many different ways from merely changing a copytext on a website or in an app through adjusting recruiting interviews or changing steps in buyer’s process up to offline behavioral change techniques.
Crucial phase is the fourth one, testing. “We usually come up with several hypotheses, and they all need to be tested. Testing gives us feedback, we implement it and start over again, narrowing the hypothesis down to the one that works best. We are simply iterating.“
The word is spreading
People studying psychology, especially in Slovakia, often say they do not know where they end up after graduation. Behavioral economics and Matej’s Mindworx might be a way for them. Four out of six people in the current core team are psychology students or graduates.
“During the studies, they do not get a chance to be in touch with behavioral economics, however. Michal, the third member of the team, joined as an intern after I went and gave a lecture at his university. Two years have passed, and now Michal went to give the lecture there. Two other people joined us.”
All they need is a passion and eagerness to learn about behavioral economics. After all, Matej is a graduate in insurance mathematics. “I studied behavioral economics as a pure passion.”
Public awareness of behavioral economics has proliferated over the last three years. Main reasons? In 2017, Richard Thaler, a Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, was awarded a Nobel Prize. „For Slovakia, the visit of Dan Ariely, a great promoter of behavioral economics, in July 2018 was one of the milestones.“
“Before, truly no one knew what behavioral economics was. We have been doing our part - attending conferences, giving talks, writing articles. We have also launched a non-profit organization named Slovak Behavioral Economics Network.“ As Matej concludes, „the awareness among the general public has turned 180 degrees.”
Top three (audio)books/blogs/podcasts that changed your way of looking at the world?
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
Which app or tool do you regularly use that most people around you do not know aka your „secret weapon“?
Asana but many people know this one
Pen and paper (see next answer)
The best personal hack that helped you become more effective/productive/healthier/less stressed/get things done over the last 6 months?
In the morning making a list of things I need to do that day and then creating a precise schedule – from what time to what time am I doing the task A, B, C, etc.
Were you not doing what you do, what career path could we see you pursuing?
I found out I liked sales. So probably the international business development of something meaningful.
A quote you live by?
If you don‘t try it, you won’t know if it’s possible.
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