How to Apply Psychology Passion in Business Work - Hammans Stallings

In Chapter 3 of 22 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, innovation strategist Hammans Stallings answers "How Do You Apply Your Passion for Psychology in Your Business Career?"  Stallings' undergraduate education in economics and psychology help him learn how the world works.  For Stallings, his psychology passion helps him generate new approaches and ideas to better understand people and human behavior in a business environment.  This is Hammans Stallings' Year 2 CYF interview.  Stallings is currently a Senior Strategist at frog design.  Previously he worked in business strategy at Dell and investment banking at Stephens.  He earned an MBA from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, a MS in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business and a BA in Economics and Psychology from the University of Virginia. 


Erik Michielsen: How do you apply your passion for psychology in your business career?

Hammans Stallings: Psychology has been my -- my secret weapon of sorts, so if you go back to my -- my undergraduate where I spent time to studying economics and psychology, two fields that have not always kind of gotten along. And I spent a lot of time in kind of a state of cognitive dissonance where I was comparing and contrasting how the two fields thought about people and thought about explaining the world.

If you recall, I was very close to going to graduate school for psychology and I'd decided not to because I didn't quite yet know what I wanted to be or how I wanted to make an impact, so -- spent five to six years kind of in the wilderness wandering around before getting to come back to a role where I can work directly upon my background in psychology. That said, when you study those things, those ideas change kind of how you see the world and change how you frame up any situation, as well -- I spent a lot of time studying decision making, cognition and learning and memory.

So, it was always something that I could benefit directly from myself and so I can -- I could always understand that there were any heuristics and biases that might be kind of falling but from a less, say selfish introspective kind of use in psychology toward using them, using those tools and frames as a way to kind of understand other people. I find that business tends to -- to lack I would say, that kind of theoretical framework around people and tends to use one of oversimplification, say marketing is a field. It has people do a lot of self-reporting. We know from psychology that that's really quite bogus yet the entire subcategories in marketing really rely on that assumption being true and it's not. So, I would say that my passion for psychology allows me to -- to sort of see through that, and to see through the self-report and other kind of assumptions like that as bogus. To create new things that maybe are in better fitting with what I know about people.

So it means creating new tools. It means creating a new way of framing up how people are responding, and how they're using things. So, having a background and a passion in psychology for me means that I'm able to generate new things, generate new ideas, whereas, a lot of people I think accept the tools of their field as kind of a given and they don't understand the -- the limitations of those tools. So having a background in a field that, I'd say, should be like a lingua franca for -- for applied social science means that you could actually do cutting edge, you know, creating new tools and new perspectives on -- on people.