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Professor Katy Milkman: The Solutions to Behavioral Change

Professor Katy Milkman: The Solutions to Behavioral Change

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I read about behavioral scientist and Wharton professor Dr. Katy Milkman in the University of Pennsylvania’s alumni magazine, The Pennsylvania Gazette. The article written by Joann Greco piqued my interest about Milkman’s book, How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be so much that I read it as soon as it arrived.

The organization of Dr. Milkman’s book is as efficient as the recommendations that she makes to assist people in changing for the better. The first part of the book consists of seven chapters that address each of the stumbling blocks that people regularly face when they want to make a change in their lives.

In each of these chapters, Professor Milkman cites real-world examples of situations faced by her clients, the people she knows, or herself. She discusses the science enabling the behavioral change and provides a section of takeaways at the end of each chapter for the reader to focus on.

The seven stumbling blocks addressed by Dr. Milkman in the seven chapters are:

  1. Getting started
  2. Impulsivity
  3. Procrastination
  4. Forgetfulness
  5. Laziness
  6. Confidence
  7. Conformity

Her easy-to-read writing style combined with the examples and explanations of the research allowed me to reflect on the instances in which I had encountered similar roadblocks.

Each chapter also has a header for the name or description of the research that backs a solution or solutions to the problem. In chapter one, it’s “The Fresh Start Effect.” In chapter two, it’s “Just a Spoonful of Sugar,” “Temptation Bundling,” “Making Work Fun,” and “What’s Possible With Buy-In.” The easy-to-remember titles may not be the specific title of the research, but they are helpful to associate with a solution to that type of stumbling block.

It’s helpful to know that Professor Milkman and her Penn colleague, Dr. Angela Duckworth (author of Grit), co-lead the Behavior Change for Good Initiative at Penn. The initiative is backed by more than 100 leading academics from around the world who are experts in many areas including economics, medicine, law, psychology, sociology, neuroscience, and computer science. Some of the examples cited in the chapters relate to issues that the initiative and its researchers were asked to solve.

I enjoyed How to Change so much, I’ve ordered a few copies for close friends and relatives. Readers of this book can apply these concepts to personal changes and organizational changes.

My favorite quote on the book’s jacket comes from bestselling author Daniel Pink: “This book is like having the smartest friend in the world whispering in your ear. You’ll want to send Katy Milkman a thank-you note.”

I agree with Mr. Pink. I’ll add to his recommendation that as you might expect from an accomplished academic like Professor Milkman, there’s a nicely referenced section of footnotes at the back of the book for anyone who wants a little deeper dive on the topics. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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