Can comms change the world?

Passionate about human behaviour, Lindsay bridges the gap between academic theory and consultancy to create insights employers can actually use to increase engagement and drive meaningful change.

She holds a MSc in Behavioural Science from The London School of Economics and Political Science, has almost 15 years of consulting experience, and is the co-author of the best-selling book Even Better If: Building Better Businesses, Better Leaders and Better Selves. She is also a Forbes contributor.

Now in its 4th year with thousands of downloads, scarlettabbott is back with their annual World Changers report. From harnessing rebel voices to bring positive change, to acknowledging that employees are being asked to dig deep (again), to the keys to keeping employees sweet and everything in between, scarlettabbott expertly guides HR and IC pros through the 10 most important trends impacting the world of work this year.

Lindsay Kohler

Lead Behavioural Scientist

Podcast questions:

  1. Tell us about the topics covered in World Changers 2023
  2. Who are the guest expert voices we can expect to hear from in the report?
  3. What were some of the “a-ha!” moments you had with your guest experts?
  4. What do you think is the most serious challenge facing comms teams this year?
  5. There’s a lot of reports and guides out there for comms pros. What makes World Changers different?

Podcast transcript here:

Disclaimer: this is an automated transcript. Please don’t call the grammar police on us. You never know, we may have ChatGPT writing our next one…

Asif Choudry (00:06):

Hello and welcome to another episode in the you’re my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host, Asif Choudry. Today my guest is Lindsay Kohler, who is the lead behavioural scientist at Scarletabbott. Passionate about human behavior, Lindsey bridges the gap between academic theory and consultancy to create insights employers can actually use to increase engagement and drive meaningful change. Lindsay also holds an MSC in behavioural science from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and has almost 15 years of consulting experience. And is the co-author the bestselling book even Better If Building Better Businesses, better Leaders, and Better Selves. She’s also a Ford’s, , Forbes contributor. So Lindsay, it’s a pleasure to welcome you on the podcast.

Lindsay Kohler (00:51):

Thank you so much for having me.

Asif Choudry (00:54):

And if the listeners can hear some light jazz in the background, Lindsay, just, I’ll let, I’m gonna let you explain.

Lindsay Kohler (01:01):

Well, I’m in a co-working space, and so we have the lovely dulce tones of whatever the front desk chooses. Um, we also have the background noise of lunches and until recently, small children, but they have sent, um, extradited the general area. But it is, you know, the, the joys of of coworking and, and future of work. Right. We no longer have perfectly curated workspaces.

Asif Choudry (01:24):

Absolutely. I That’s

Lindsay Kohler (01:26):


Asif Choudry (01:26):

<laugh>. Yeah. So we’re not gonna edit any of this, so whatever noises, we’ll, you might, as we publish the podcast, we might have a guest the Noises game as we go through this episode, <laugh>. So we’ll see what happens. So we don’t know what’s gonna come in terms of noises, but we’re light jazz is gonna be the constant one throughout, so we’ll go with that. I don’t mind a bit of jazz. It’s quite relaxing, isn’t it?

Lindsay Kohler (01:47):

Yeah, I think so.

Asif Choudry (01:49):

So Lindsay, we’re gonna get to know you a little bit. Um, and , so I’m gonna kick off with the first question. Are you an early riser or do you live a lion?

Lindsay Kohler (01:59):

I’m an early riser.

Asif Choudry (02:01):

Okay. What is it about the early mornings? Are you in that 5:00 AM club just leaping out of bed and, um,

Lindsay Kohler (02:06):

You know, I wish that I could say that I was that good. I’m more of that 7:00 AM but I think my brain is just, it’s just functioning in the morning. So that’s when I do all my deep work, my creative thinking and come the evening. I just want to unwind. But I think that’s a bit funny about me is, you know, people are like, Ooh, I’m an early advisor, you know, late night person and I feel like I’m just slightly perpetually tired, <laugh>, but definitely more of an early riser and, and schedule those heavy tasks for the morning.

Asif Choudry (02:36):

Yeah, good. That deep, deep work focused work. Everyone’s kind of talking about the, the different techniques out there with Pomodoro and, um, I remember Jenny Field introduced me to, um, eat the Frog. I think it was technique. The, yeah, get the, get the, get the kind of task you don’t wanna do, get it done first. Oh. So that, um, get it done first in the morning and then the rest of the day seems to be a lot more palatable. But, um, but yeah, that’s a whole nother podcast that <laugh>. Um, I read Atomic Habits not so long ago and that’s, that was quite helpful. So it’s something, it’s a challenge that I have every day cause there’s always so many different distractions and mm-hmm. <affirmative> getting deep focused work. It’s quite, it’s not as easy as it sounds in the books in, , in practice. I agree. So tell us, um, are you a phone caller or texter,

Lindsay Kohler (03:26):

Texter? I, I don’t know when it switched at some point in my life, but when I see my phone ring, it acutely stresses me out. Or when you need to call somebody to make an appointment and every time I, I do, I’m like, oh, that was so much easier. Why was I dreading it? But I think something about text messaging is just one layer removed and it makes it a bit psychologically easier, I guess. Less stressful somehow. Yeah.

Asif Choudry (03:53):

Well, it’s the world of convenience that we live in through live chat and online chat and um, , just quick messaging and stuff like that. Even on teams, people are, you know, switching from email, internal emails to teams, chat switch ultimately become, it’s just text messaging at work, isn’t it? Now that, um, you don’t need your phone for necessarily. So, um, so yeah, definitely changed more workplace change as we’re exploring, um, already in this, , in this podcast. So, um, from a books point of view, do, do you prefer, and as a published bestselling, , co-author yourself, do you prefer eBooks or printed books?

Lindsay Kohler (04:30):

So I have specific use cases for each, so print books I prefer when it’s non-fiction and in my field. So I read loads of psychology, behavioural science, comms, basically anything popular science, which I hope that my book falls into that category. I a hundred percent like printed cause I earmark, I write up, I take notes and I go back and I reference ’em frequently. But I’m such a voracious fiction reader that I wouldn’t have enough shelves in my house if I had, right. So my Kindles my best friend for fiction, for nonfiction. I absolutely need a printed book.

Asif Choudry (05:12):

That’s interesting. That, , an interesting take. So that’s, um, great though. Let’s give, let’s finish up with one more question. , apple or Android

Lindsay Kohler (05:23):


Asif Choudry (05:24):

Any reason for that?

Lindsay Kohler (05:26):

Yeah, because I moved to San Francisco in 2013 and was the only person that still had an Android, which was sort of preferred in Seattle with Amazon. Then I moved to San Francisco, everyone had an iPhone. I felt ostracized by the green message that comes in if you’re an iPhone user and you text <laugh>. So I switched and I just never switched back.

Asif Choudry (05:47):

You’ve, you’ve stuck with them ever since. But Apple tends to be the common one. Although this season we’ve already had, , , a couple of Android, , users as well. So they do exist. They do exist. So that’s been brilliant that thank you Lindsay for sharing, , some insight. I’ve got to know you a bit more and I’m sure the listeners will have done too. Oh

Lindsay Kohler (06:08):

My pleasure. Um,

Asif Choudry (06:09):

, so we, the reason for the podcast here is that you’ve, um, Skylar Abbott, it’s n you’ve produced basically your annual World Changers report, which is now in hiss fourth year with a thousand downloads already, which is great. So, and that from Harnessing Rebel Voices to bring positive change to acknowledging that employees are being asked to dig deep again to the keys, to keeping employees sweet and everything in between. Um, and Skylar Abbot Expertly Guides HR and IC Pros through the 10 most important trends impacting the world of work this year. So we’re gonna, I’m gonna ask you some questions that kind of elaborate on some of that research and in the show notes we’ll share the link to, um, the report as well. , so to kick off then, Lindsay, tell us about the topics covered in World Changes 2023.

Lindsay Kohler (07:03):

Yes, it’s a pretty wide range is how I’m going to preface this answer. So we’ve got, you know, the classic icy topics such as storytelling and talking about diversity and inclusion and sustainability. But then we also examined culture unrest of it. So you mentioned harnessing Revel voices in the interest. So that was really coming out of the fact that there was a lot of rising dissatisfaction last year, right? We had cost of Living crisis, we had this great resignation and it just felt like people were banding together to take the power back. So it was really understanding how to harness some of those rebel voices for good. Um, we talked about wondering if D n I efforts have to get maybe a bit stricter, right? Go be, go beyond those really beautiful belonging campaigns and talk about potentially chasing changing up codes of contact and what that means for IC and HR teams, um, to diving deep. You know, we said we have to dig a lot deeper with resilience. So we went and found a psychologist, um, who used to work at Facebook and got her opinion on, on those expert areas. So we really, I think, take you through the full gamut of everything that could, um, really impact your experience in the, in the world of work.

Asif Choudry (08:23):

Yeah. Great. So, and then you mentioned you spoke to um, , some of your Facebook. So who are the guest expert voices we can expect to hear from in the report?

Lindsay Kohler (08:33):

Yeah, you know, this is such a varied group this year, um, and we really looked outside of our world and our community, um, to just get that, I guess outside opinion that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. So people such as the head of virtual first at Dropbox talking about how to organize information and I guess share knowledge in this remote world to, you know, we have the former psychologist at Medic giving us those resilience lessons. Um, a really interesting one. We have Ferris store. She was the former editor of Cosmopolitan and now she’s head of, I think it’s content Partnerships at Sub and she was talking about how to connect with your audiences and how to write with empathy. Um, we have to Beers head of carbon neutrality talking through their sustainability journey. I mean, we even have an etiquette expert talking about kind of what the new rules of the road are for social expectations at work.

Lindsay Kohler (09:32):

So for example, what I just had right now with having children in the lobby that were quite noisy, I’m like, oh, is it okay now to take kids to work? Is it certain circumstances? So how are these etiquette rules changing because the world of work has changed? And so I could, I could go, um, on and on, but I think between them they have such an amazing wealth of advice to offer that I think in our IC and HR world, we don’t often have a chance to get their time and attention on the issues that we really care about. So I’m just humbled by the quality of those voices that we got this year to participate.

Asif Choudry (10:11):

Yeah. Amazing. And then you, there’s such a diverse range of topics and, um, some real high profile contributors and expert voices in the report. And so there must have been some of those aha moments, um, from the guest experts. Can you share with us some of those?

Lindsay Kohler (10:28):

Yeah, I’d, I’d love to, um, and it’s gonna be hard to pick, but I’ve, I’ve been thinking about this and I think I’ve been able to narrow it down to two interview moments. So one of our interviews with community expert David Spinks, and he’s the author of the bestselling book called The Business of Belonging. And he talked with us about this kind of idea of work communities shrinking and he said people join don’t join companies for community. And I think that that really resonated with me because we talked so much about work culture and collaboration and forming relationships. And he said, you know, businesses need to recognize that they aren’t building a family, they aren’t building a neighborhood and they aren’t building a religion. And so they don’t need to be held to those same community standards as other units. And I just thought that was such a refreshing and interesting take when so much of the conversation is about bringing our global workforces together and creating this community.

Lindsay Kohler (11:31):

I mean, in fact, maybe that’s not quite what we want or what we need. And so I’ve really liked his viewpoint. And I guess the other like aha moment was we had Margaret Baylor, who she’s been leading global businesses for years, you know, especially in the tech realm. Tech realm. So X, Amazon X, ibm, she’s currently a VP at Twilio. And so I asked her, cuz her latest book has called Be Unexpected, it’s just Come out and I asked her, what is the most rebellious act you can take at work? And you know what she said? She said, the most rebellious thing you can do at work is to tell leaders something that they don’t want to hear. And so I had like literal goosebumps when she, um, said that. I thought it was just such a powerful insight.

Asif Choudry (12:22):

Yeah. Excellent. And then, um, so some really, that’s just a couple of them. There’s loads more and we’re gonna, , we’ll publish a link to the report and you just need to go to Scarlet Abbot’s website as well and have a look and you’ll find that report there as well. So what do you think, now we’re here, , as comms hero and supporting the comms community. So what do you think is the most serious challenge facing comms teams this year?

Lindsay Kohler (12:47):

Yeah, I, I think it’s going to be with the employee value proposition and how comms teams communicate that because I think that the EVP is really going to have to change, right? We’re being asked to be resilient yet again, we’re facing into a cost of living crisis. We’ve had like more and more employee employers wanting to get their people back in offices and starting to mandate again. And I just think that if employees are gonna be asked to do all of that, that they’re gonna want something in return. You know, it’s kind of that classic behavioural science principle of reciprocity. You know, if I do something for you, you’re gonna have to do something for me. Yeah. And I feel like comms teams get really squeezed in between, right? They’re the mediator, they’re the voice, they’re feeding the feedback up and trying to feed the hard messages back down and acting as that mediator. And so I think they’re gonna really have their hands full in communicating tough messages and doing listening activities with their people to make sure that voices are heard and that everyone finds some sort of happy medium.

Asif Choudry (13:56):

Yeah. Do you think then, because the, the, the role of comms is, and I’m sure many comms listeners, um, to the podcast will agree that it’s, it’s already hugely challenging with the pandemic, having challenged that and the cost of living crisis and some of the things you’ve mentioned there. Is there room in people’s professional lives to overcome a more challenge? Is there po Is it even possible?

Lindsay Kohler (14:21):

Well, I think anything’s possible, but I think the question we have to ask ourselves is what are we gonna prioritize, right? Because you can’t always do it all and you can’t make everybody happy. So where do we start to figure out what those trade-offs are and what are the things that we can let go of and what are the things that we want to make room for? Because I think a lot of times in change management in comms, we kind of overlook the power of subtractive changes, right? We’re so quick to try to add, add, add to fix things Yeah. That we don’t think enough about what we can take away. So I, I think there’s a absolutely a way to do it, but we can’t keep doing it all and we can’t keep adding on. We’re gonna have to be much more thoughtful about what really matters and stripping away what doesn’t.

Asif Choudry (15:07):

Yeah. Cause there is definitely the, I’ve seen lots more, um, comments on social and LinkedIn and Twitter and wherever else about people having to learn the art of saying no because like you say, just, um, adding all the time, you know, being asked to do more things, which is quite, quite commonplace for, um, especially as companies want to communicate more and get messages out to more people. There’s, there’s those bigger demands coming on and um, is saying no, that is it an easy thing? Is it, , as a behavioural scientist, I’ve quite, I’d like to explore that a little bit.

Lindsay Kohler (15:44):

Well, I think it’s, it’s context specific and and person specific. And that’s one of the most annoying things you’ll hear behavioural scientists say over and over again. We basically will give you some iteration of, well, it depends. Um, so well it, it, it does depend though, are you in a, I think at work it’s, are you a psychologically safe place? So do you feel like there’s an environment that you can say no? Do you feel like you have clout? What is just your innate personality? Like I don’t really struggle with saying no, I know others do. So I do think it’s context specific, but the one constant that allows that in the workplace is psychological safety.

Asif Choudry (16:23):

Yeah, no, I’d agree with that. So yeah, more challenges, um, facing the comms, , teams this year and just like, I’m sure if we recorded a follow up to this in 2024, they’ll be more challenges piled on top of those, but maybe everybody’s just, um, learned how to cope with them better and say no and get rid of a few things and, and stuff like that. But we’ll see how the year progresses. And, um, so there are, you know, lots of reports and guides out there for comms professionals. So what makes world changes different to all the others?

Lindsay Kohler (16:59):

Yeah, that’s a terrific question cuz you’re right, there’s a lot out there and how do we choose what to pay attention to and what to give our precious time and energy toward? And if I can make a case for world changers, I think it would be the following two points. And the first is just the depth of perspective and empathy that can really only come when you have a team that has such, I guess, diverse specialisms, right? We’ve got journalists, we have an anthropologist, I’m a behavioural scientist, um, and everybody at the company has worked in-house at large corporations. So we really understand the world that we’re consulting in because we’ve, we’ve been there, right? We’ve had that lived experience. Yeah, we understand those challenges and we all have incredibly unique specialism. So we bring all of that together in this report. Um, and that also means because we’ve been in, in that world that our predictions and our stated opportunities are really, they’re just practical and they’re very specific. You know, my pet peeve is when you read reports, um, and you get recommendations like improve the employee experience. And I think, my god, that is so vague, like yeah,

Asif Choudry (18:07):

It is. Yeah,

Lindsay Kohler (18:08):

It drives me insane. I guess just the second thing is the quality of those outside experts that we source. Um, it’s a lot of work each year getting that lineup together and just the, the angle that they take, especially as many of them aren’t in comms or hr, they just bring a really interesting perspective that I don’t think you’re gonna find in most of the reports that are circulating out there in the comms world. And that is absolutely what differentiates World Changers.

Asif Choudry (18:38):

Amazing. So, you know, that’s a really good insight into the World Changers report and, um, people listening to this, if you haven’t seen it by the time we go to publish and this episode goes live, then , go to the Scarlet Habit website and have a look and the link will be in the show notes as well. So Lindsay, you talked about community before and you’ve spoken, , you’ve been a speaker at a previous com zero week virtual event. And um, before I ask the next question, I think it’d be great to, for you to just tell us a little story in terms of what happened on the, this is your Comms Hero esque, um, resilience coming to the fore of when you were, it was, it’s a virtual event, comm zero week and you are prepped and ready to go for your speaker session. And then what happened?

Lindsay Kohler (19:26):

<laugh>, what happened is my internet decided that about three minutes before I was to go live, that it was gonna be an excellent time to die and we could have canceled, we could have rescheduled. I was chatting with the team on, on my phone behind the scenes, I just said, give me 90 seconds, scooped up my laptop. I ran across the street to a coffee shop, I slid in and we were able to start the session on time. Um, but we did have like a comedy of airs I would say because I was in this zone. I was focused, but I had what can only be described as like Armageddon behind me. I mean, we had like crying babies, barking dogs, dropping glasses, all these people moving in and out and I’m just pretending that none of that is there. But I think, and you would agree that the comments section of that that was amazing of that talk was just half of it was on the insights I was showed and the other half was like, what the heck is going on in that background? How are you staying focused? Man, those people are getting a lot of great insights for free and we just, um, well the show must go on, right,

Asif Choudry (20:36):

<laugh>? Absolutely. And and what a comms hero legend you after for <laugh>, , for, um, everything just went on time. Um, and it was great and it was a great, great session. So tell us, Lindsay, why is Comms Hero as a community? Why is it important to you and would you recommend people working in comms and marketing to be part of it?

Lindsay Kohler (20:55):

Yeah, I, I think, I think what’s so great about it is you’re so inclusive. It is such an inclusive community. There’s none of that distinction between are you a consultant or are you in-house? Nobody cares what your CV or your resume is. It’s just a place where everyone can share insights without an agenda, without trying to sell something, without trying to push their own initiative or product forward. I feel like it really is a very neutral community that’s come together with the aim to just share knowledge, connect and collectively upskill each other. And I think that that’s really hard to find. And so I, I love that about the Comms Hero community and thank you for all the work that you put into creating this place for us to come together.

Asif Choudry (21:45):

No, that’s great and thank you. It’s always nice to hear that people do value the community. A lot of time goes into it, and you’re absolutely right in terms of being inclusive. There’s no membership fee. You don’t, it doesn’t matter which membership body you are part of or not part of, and we can kind of have the conversations that other people perhaps, potentially can’t as well. So, , it is definitely a safe space and we, we, we are, we set out, we’re in our ninth year now and set out to celebrate the heroics that comms people perform every day to remind comms people that because they’re always so busy promoting everyone else’s great work, we don’t often get the chance to remember we have to keep promoting ourselves and it’s only by doing that, that this we’re not at the top table thing will disappear. So, you know, um, communities like this need to carry on. So part of the community we want people to connect and network. We would love for people to connect with you Lindsay. So, um, how can the listeners connect with you where we’ll find you?

Lindsay Kohler (22:46):

Yeah, um, LinkedIn is where I’m most active on social. So send me a note, um, introducing yourself or grab a follow, but that’s definitely the best place to find me or you can follow, um, my Forbes, um, contributor column as well.

Asif Choudry (23:04):

Excellent. Thank you for that. I urge everyone to go and do that. And, , Liz’s LinkedIn, um, details will be in the show notes as well. You’ll find us podcast on Spotify, apple and on our website com and you can follow us on twitter com zero. If you are listening on Spotify and Apple, please do leave a rating review and follow and subscribe. And if you do fancy yourself as a guest on the podcast, you’re passionate about a comms topic that you wanna speak about, then get in touch with me as if Childry on LinkedIn or Twitter or you can dm com zero. And um, you can do what Lindsay’s just done and had a, um, you know, a guest slot on the Com zero podcast. So Lindsay, it’s been a fascinating conversation, which I know the listeners will enjoy and it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Lindsay Kohler (23:48):

Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.