How to build a culture of transparency and trust in business.

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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates

Corporate culture is a hot topic these days.  It encapsulates a milieu of interpersonal interactions across your organization – how leaders treat their employees, how teams work together, how staff interact with customers, and so on.

A thriving culture can produce an innovative, agile, workforce where discretionary effort is commonplace.  However, a toxic culture can produce burnout, turnover, workplace harassment, and the like.

While the consensus in the business world is that culture is crucial to the workplace, IndustryWeek recently described it as a “white whale” – something that we seem to badly want but is difficult to achieve.  This is where behavioral science can help.

In a recent video by Brett DiNovi and Associates, Brett draws upon his experience as the leader of the largest Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) provider on the east coast to discuss his tips for a healthy culture, a committed workforce, and a place with one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry.

Transparency through Public Feedback and Self-Monitoring

One thing he stresses in his work is transparency across departments. For example, every Monday, each department head publicly posts its profit and loss statement as a way to promote self monitoring and goal setting.  Doing so holds each department accountable for their performance and, while it may be painful at times, it is also an opportunity for constructive feedback and positive growth. 

Public feedback has broad support in the Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) literature.  For example, a review by Nordstrom, Lorenzi, and Hall (1991) found public posting to be effective across a variety of tasks and businesses.  Many studies in their review included public posting in combination with goal setting and other incentives, which can amplify performance effects if used appropriately.

Self monitoring techniques have also found wide support in the literature, including as a way to improve work posture (Gravina, Loewy, Rice & Austin, 2013), to increase the performance of sales representatives (Copeland, Ludwig, Bergman, & Acikgoz, 2018), and as a way to increase occupational safety (Olson & Winchester, 2008).

Trust by Making Yourself a Discriminative Stimulus

Finally, a thriving culture is built on trust, which comes from letting your managers do what they do best without micromanaging.  Decentralized growth is an important component of trust, and it is an approach Brett supports.  He has found that it gives more people ownership and control over their own departments and cultures. 

Decentralization requires trust that people will do what they say.  If someone doesn’t follow through with what they say, trust diminishes.  If someone sticks to their word, trust increases.  By asking “is there anything I may have promised that I somehow didn’t deliver to you?” you hold yourself accountable to your own words.  In the long run, it builds trust with your employees, and shows that you care about their needs.  That is the “white whale” realized. 

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is a science writer, social philosopher, behavioral systems analyst, and the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which aims to connect behavioral science to the world in an engaging, non-academic way.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  His publications follow a theme of behavioral systems analysis, organizational performance, theory & philosophy, and language & cognition.  He has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward can be reached at [email protected]


Brett DinoviBrett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at [email protected]

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