Ivan Palomino, Managing Partner, PeopleKult

Ivan Palomino is a recognized expert on Behavioral Sciences applied to Culture Change and Learning.  He has worked with more than 100 corporations to build high-performing and human-centric cultures at work. Ivan is the CEO of PeopleKult, the host of the Growth Hacking Culture podcast, and co-author of the book, “The Rough Guide to Awesome Leadership”.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Ivan shared his professional trajectory, what sets PeopleKult apart from other market competitors, the top 3 tips to building human-centric work cultures, the best piece of advice he has ever received, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.


Hi Ivan. Please tell us about your background and areas of interest.

I grew up in two amazing places! I was born in Peru, which is known for its warm and caring people. In my teen years, I moved to Switzerland, which highly respects logic and structure. Living in such different places helped me understand and embrace how people think and act, especially when it comes to changing things at work in the context of business transformation.

I’ve always been fascinated by the intricacies of human psychology. This fascination led me to spend nearly 18 years at a Fortune 500 company in the area of strategy and innovation, where I experienced firsthand the impact of human behavior on organizational transformation. As I observed, the human brain is naturally resistant to change, and when people do not feel aligned with the values of their organization, innovation and progress stagnate.

This experience ignited my quest on how to effectively nudge people towards change. Recognizing that my existing knowledge and experience were insufficient, I embarked on a journey to understand the depths of neuroscience and positive psychology.

Founding PeopleKult was the result of using our framework based on brain science and using technology to amplify change at scale.

What sets PeopleKult apart from other market competitors?

There are not many options to effectively tackle the common cultural challenges in corporations. The following 3 challenges are often raised, but not addressed well with traditional solutions:

  • Aligning employees’ behaviors to the company values – making them understandable, practical, and sustainable
  • Diagnosing the underlying cultural pain points so that organizations can act on the right problems
  • Fixing the usual cultural problems: collaboration, agility, connection, innovation, resilience, and accountability

Work Culture is a challenge for many organizations – companies who do not have a healthy work culture:

  • Have 10x loss of revenues compared to peers that have a strong organizational culture
  • Have a higher cost per employee due to lower productivity
  • Have 88% less chance to attract talent prioritizing thriving work cultures

PeopleKult’s operational framework based on Design Thinking allows us to implement solutions that provide high agility, employee centricity, and impact based on data.

Our ‘secret-sauce’ is rooted in scientific rigor:

  • Brain-based behavior change: PeopleKult leverages the intricacies of neuroscience to nudge individuals towards desired cultural norms.
  • Data-driven solutions: Assumptions are cast aside as PeopleKult employs data and technology to identify and address real-world problems.
  • Impact measurement: PeopleKult quantifies the impact of the interventions, providing tangible evidence of their success.

How would you define behavioral design? Why is it so important today?

Behavioral design applied to work culture means embedding psychological principles to shape and influence employee behaviors in a way that benefits both the organization and the employees themselves.

This implies:

  • Understanding Employee Behavior: Behavioral design starts with understanding the factors that influence employee behavior in the workplace. This could involve analyzing current work processes, employee feedback, and relevant research on motivation and decision-making.
  • Identifying Desired Outcomes: Organizations need to define the desired behaviors they want to cultivate within the work culture. This might include fostering collaboration, improving innovation, or encouraging risk-taking.
  • Designing Interventions: Employees need to be “nudged” towards the desired behaviors. These interventions can be subtle and can include:


  • Workflow Tweaks: Reorganizing tasks or simplifying processes to make desired behaviors easier or more efficient.
  • Incentive Structures: Implementing reward systems that recognize and reinforce desired behaviors.
  • Social Cues: Utilizing social norms and peer pressure to promote desirable behaviors within teams.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Providing clear and timely feedback that highlights progress towards desired behaviors.

What can leaders do to allow themselves to find and channel that human-centric leadership mindset?

Some of the most impactful tools to cultivate a human-centric leadership mindset are easy to implement:

  1. Focus on Strengths, Not Just Weaknesses:
  • Shift your focus from fixing weaknesses to leveraging the strengths of yourself and your team members.
  1. Foster a Growth Mindset:
  • View challenges and setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth, both for yourself and your team. Encourage a culture where experimentation and calculated risks are celebrated.
  1. Build Positive Relationships:
  • Show genuine care and respect for your team members as individuals. Make time for personal interactions and actively listen to their concerns.
  • Humans are social creatures. Foster a sense of belonging and team spirit through collaboration, team-building exercises, and recognition of collective achievements.
  1. Boost the Power of Positive Emotions:
  • Positive emotions and enthusiasm can be contagious. Express gratitude, celebrate successes, and use humor appropriately to create a more positive work environment.
  1. Empowerment & Autonomy:
  • Trust your team members and empower them with ownership over their work. This fosters a sense of agency and motivates them to go the extra mile.
  • Help your team connect their work to a larger purpose. Knowing their contributions are meaningful boosts engagement and motivation.

Applying these strategies means practicing daily consistent behaviors, even if it is a couple of minutes per day: consistency is more important than the intensity of the action.

Remember, leadership is a journey. By continuously applying these positive psychology principles, you can become a more human-centric leader who empowers and inspires others!

What are your top 3 tips to building human-centric work cultures?

Today’s workforce thrives in environments that prioritize well-being and connection. Here are 3 ways organizations can leverage technology, psychology, and processes to rapidly develop a human-centric work culture:

  1. Leverage on technology for Connection & Well-being
  • Utilize collaboration tools to dismantle geographical barriers and foster a sense of connection among geographically dispersed teams.
  • Implement tools that offer flexible schedules and remote work opportunities. This empowers employees to manage their well-being and create a healthier work-life balance.
  • Partner with technology providers offering access to mindfulness apps, online therapy resources, or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to prioritize employee mental health.
  1. Psychology-Driven Practices for Engagement
  • Implement platforms that allow recognition and feedback based on individual strengths. This empowers employees and reinforces positive behaviors.
  • Utilize goal-setting processes such as OKRs and progress-tracking tools to create a sense of accomplishment and ownership over tasks. This leverages motivational psychology by providing a sense of achievement and mastery.
  • Foster open communication and encourage respectful debate. Tools like anonymous feedback channels can help employees feel comfortable voicing concerns, creating a psychologically safe environment.
  1. Build processes for Human Connection
  • Schedule regular team meetings (virtual or in-person) that go beyond work updates. Allocate time for informal interactions and team bonding exercises. This fosters social connection and a sense of belonging.
  • Move away from traditional yearly reviews. Implement ongoing feedback loops focused on development, strengths coaching, and goal setting.
  • Analyze current workflows and identify opportunities for streamlining processes, reducing unnecessary workload, and promoting autonomy.

Please share the major takeaways from your book., ‘The Rough Guide to Awesome Leadership’.

‘The Rough Guide to Awesome Leadership’ is a book offering a pragmatic alternative to traditional leadership manuals. Ditching overly academic approaches, this book provides a candid exploration of leadership development for those ready to translate theory into actionable habits. My co-author and I used some research on behavioral science to explore the key characteristics of successful leaders who:

  • Prioritize team flourishing for sustained organizational success.
  • Consistently implement micro-actions to optimize team interactions.
  • Embrace a growth mindset, fostering continuous learning and development.

When writing this book, I had in mind the struggles for:

  • Leaders seeking to enhance their impact.
  • Emerging leaders who are looking for actionable strategies for success.
  • Organizations aiming to foster a more human-centric culture.

In your academic or work career, were there any mentors who have helped you grow along the way? What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

In my career, I have found valuable inspiration not only from some of the leaders who had a positive impact on me and their teams but also from the toxic ones – It’s actually the people I found toxic who helped me draw a very clear line on what I can do without sacrificing my values and beliefs.

The most valuable piece of advice that I have received at work is: “You can only learn by doing, with passion, and with real people – not in front of a computer.”

What is it that motivates and inspires you in your everyday life?

I grew up with the belief that success is about financial freedom and had a very unclear idea of what this means. The day that I got rid of this bias and did things that were aligned with my own purpose – life started to have a more delicious taste. This thought is part of my daily morning routine.

What are you particularly proud of in your career?

I was quite lucky that I had an interesting corporate career that allowed me to travel, learn from people, and have substantial perks. But guess what – I wasn’t connected with that specific corporate culture and it induced a major hit on my mental health. Moving away from this environment is still my proudest moment – it allowed everything that followed: entrepreneurship, being a more present father, and focusing on a life with purpose.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

5 years from now, it will be the time to scale up the accessibility of workplace psychology for anyone in an organization – it means that all this wealth of information, methodologies, and empirical learning that my team and I have cumulated, must be taught at a larger scale: either through an accessible book or designing learning curricula. I am already preparing this vision.

One piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring professionals from your industry.

Technology looks exciting on the HRTech side, as it allows organizations to be more data-driven, proactive, and agile. But the most important revolution in work culture is less about technology and more about the methodology to make employees thrive when learning, working, and breathing their culture.

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