Luckily, With Practice, You Can Still Enjoy Freefall

living with MS




data scientist

social psychologist

Dr. Kevin J. Payne


Your Life, Lived Well (2019) — Get Chapter 1 FREE

Dr. Kevin J. Payne

Dr. Kevin J. Payne

Dr. Kevin J. Payne is a scientist, entrepreneur and author.

Your Life, Lived Well (get Chapter 1 FREE) presents a new understanding of what it’s like to live with a chronic health condition and shows both diagnosed and caregivers how to improve quality of life. It also relates his journey with multiple sclerosis and giving care.

His company, Chronic Cow™, is a labor of love. It uses cutting-edge analytics to deliver improved quality of life: practical answers, grounded in science, driven by data, delivered with compassion, and personalized for you. We identify and guide you through lifestyle changes that will specifically work to improve your health and quality of life with a chronic condition.

His Chronic Life Podcast (co-hosted with Don Peterson) delivers a kind, honest, and reliable take on the often unspoken challenges of living with, and caring for, chronic health conditions.

A research methodologist and data scientist, he’s studied how people best thrive under distress and disadvantage since the 90s. He’s designed, managed, or consulted on more than 1,000 projects.

He’s educated, inspired, and entertained tens of thousands through his classes, workshops, and speeches.

After 15 years as a professor, he left to become a serial entrepreneur. He’s led enterprise generating millions in annual revenue and double-digit growth.

He was born and raised in the Kansas City Metro. He adores activities with heights and pointy objects, can’t have too many books, is a lifelong tech geek, loves collecting new experiences, is devoted to his animals, pretty fond of his kids, and is sometimes a pirate.

He can be contacted through the Booking form on this site.

Chronic Cow

Chronic Cow

My company, Chronic Cow, is a labor of love. We deliver tools, training & technology supporting better quality lives for those living with chronic, invisible & disabling illness; loved ones & caregivers; and medical, therapeutic & support professionals. Chronic Cow is a company committed to:

  1. A beneficial, socially aware presence.
  2. Partnering with, and contributing to, nonprofits, public agencies, causes, and movements supporting chronic illness, caregivers, and medical and therapeutic practitioners.
  3. Maintaining an active research & development program in human data science and the analysis of relevant quality of life issues.
  4. Rethinking work and pursuing workplace innovations to further meaningful professional opportunities for those with chronic, invisible, and disabling illness, and those who give care.
  5. Speaking for scientifically-informed, data driven, and humane practices, policies, and procedures regarding those with chronic conditions, their loved ones and caregivers, and supportive medical and therapeutic professionals and institutions.

To her friends, she’s known as “Bossie,” the Chronic Cow.

Like many young men, I was attracted to danger — or to stupid, depending on your point of view.

I’ve always been up for just about anything involving excessive speed, outrageous heights, sharp pointy objects, travel to far off lands, meeting new and interesting people, or that would, in general, elicit a “what was he thinking?” response.  Fortunately, I survived those escapades (granted, in a few cases, I probably shouldn’t have).  Although even I sometimes shake my head and wonder what I was thinking, it gave me a lifetime of colorful stories, and I hope, just a bit of wisdom born of foolish experience (but that’s for others to decide).  It’s probably also why I’ve always been a performer.

Time went on, as it does, and life caught up with me.  One day, a few years back, I woke up and found myself living a placid suburban existence with a family, a mortgage, and a very safe career as a professor.  Without really noticing, I had been doing the same thing for 15 years (evidently, sometimes I let this happen).  Now, don’t get me wrong: a family, a home, and a stable career are all great to have.  They’re the things that people around the world strive for, if we’re fortunate and can afford them.

But something was missing.  My life was day after day of “been there, done that.”  I had lost the spark, the enchantment, the sense of newness and wonder.  I still loved research and teaching, but I wanted to find a place out in the “real world” where those things could matter.

Never fear, I wanted to keep the kids (I like them and they’re growing into pretty cool humans) and I wanted to keep a roof over our heads, but I didn’t greet each coming academic year with the same vitality that once came unbidden.  I thought that there had to be another way of making myself useful: I know people, I know data, I know technology, and I know how to perform.  Surely I could construct a new career from those tools?

Besides, after rising to the challenge of building an academic program that served more than six thousand annual enrollments and growing it’s annual revenue from $2.2 million to $5.5 million in six short years (which is a lot in the world of the Academy, especially for a Sociology Program), I thought I might be able to do this business thing.  And once the program was established, it just wasn’t the same adventure.

So now?  I’m a guy entering middle-age with a neurodegenerative condition — and doing it without a net.  (Which is, in fact, a total exaggeration: I’m blessed with a rich network of family, friends and colleagues who put up with my idiosyncrasies and help my journey in innumerable ways.)  It’s scary as hell, but infinitely invigorating.  Being an entrepreneur is fulfilling a lifelong dream that I thought I’d allowed to pass me by.

Life is about collecting experiences, connecting with others, and drawing meaningful insights we can share.  Seeking new and exciting experiences is why I’ve got so many colorful stories.  It’s how I’ve developed compassion for the human condition.  And it’s why I’ve developed such a deep respect for Golden Age Pirates [link].  That truly was life without a net, but they developed innovative shared support systems in response.  I see (some of) them as kindred souls separated by just three scant centuries.  The rest were unmitigated prats.

Now?  In the midst of the entrepreneurial excitement, I try to make the time once more for some of those adrenaline-inducing experiences.  Responsibly, of course.

A successful life (or business) depends on rationally managing risk: identifying real threats and opportunities, calculating their likely rewards, and balancing their possibilities with their costs.  I use real data and real social and behavioral science to make sense of it.  If you’re interested in my consulting services built on my Finding Our Fit™ and Success ADAPTS™ systems, or you want me to speak, please contact me.

And, of course, sign up for my email list to keep up on the latest information about making better decisions, living better lives, and building better enterprise.

As an academic type, I’ve always considered the end of summer the beginning of a new year: preschool, primary school, secondary school, college, graduate school, and now, entering my 13th year as a teacher of college students.  My whole life has been lived according to the rhythms of the academic calendar.  Now, by the precedent set of historical necessity, is when that all begins again.

It may seem strange to someone long away from education and out in the “real world” (few phrases set my teeth on edge faster — of course school is the real world and it’s demeaning to all those hard at work learning to hear otherwise), but this is the beginning of our year.

So as the leaves begin to turn and fall, and as the world starts her slow decline into another season of well-earned slumber, turning the cycle into another of rebirth, I feel my annual sense of renewal.  Autumn is the season I most love.  In my part of the world, it promises environmental beauty as nature puts on one last show before quieting until spring.  But it also promises another beauty as I am privileged once more to take my small part in that thing that makes us undeniably human: to learn and to take that knowledge forward into our own lives.

The sight that greets me each autumn morning on campus.
The sight that greets me each autumn morning on campus.

Alright, so that’s a bit idealized.  But throughout my life in the academy, that remains how I feel.  I am still almost giddy at another opportunity to share what I have spent my lifetime learning, and to learn from the fresh student eyes drawn toward questions that I would never think to ask.

In my family, this season marks another milestone.  For three years I have watched our son bound up the hill each school morning to the bus stop with his mother in order to see our daughter off on another scholastic adventure.  Then I watched him trudge back home, dejected that he could not join her.  Too young by the calendar, although his spirit was eager.

But that changes on Monday when he begins his own academic odyssey with kindergarten.  I am excited by the prospect of those new things he will bring to our family’s dinner table conversation.  I hope that he will nurture his own love of learning, as have I.

So the world may be dying once more, but the annual cycle of the life of the mind is, once again, being reborn.  Teaching in the classroom is only one of the many ways I am renewed by learning.  Research, service, writing, speaking, and consulting all have their valued places for me.  But college teaching is the most tangible expression of that honorable learning process, and I look forward to greeting another batch of students tomorrow.

In celebration of the Academic New Year, I resolve to better attend to my blog, which has languished too long.  I wish a very “Happy New Year” to all of you about to become engaged in the serious and joyful business of learning and teaching once more!

Happy New Year!

You’re the expert on your organization. Dr. Payne compliments your practical experience with proven social science and tested data analytics. He provides an expert outside perspective that helps you see new possibilities for your organization. He offers a full range of strategic and operational consulting, data analytic, speaking, and training services. He brings more than two decades of experience studying people, organizations, markets, and technology to your problem — and years of making those insights useable for everyone.

Click the sections below to reveal more information. You can also click on the “Details…” links or go to the About page. Dr. Payne is also happy to answer questions about how he can help your organization find your fit and adapt for success.

[expand title="CONSULTING"]
Dr. Payne is not your typical consultant. Most consultants identify themselves in a well-defined niche: management, human resources, public relations, marketing, organizational, performance, development, or Internet and information technology consultants are all common. There’s a good reason for this since these labels allow a professional to be easily recognized. He brings something different: depth of experience across an integrated set of fields.

Social science is the “user’s manual” for being human. Research methods is how we ask better questions and get better answers to live more successfully. Too often, we’re intimidated by the idea of science, but social science is practical and Dr. Payne specializes in making it relevant to your better decisions.

His services overlap data and statistical consulting, strategic consulting, operational consulting, organizational and individual performance consulting, and IT consulting. He focuses on high level strategy and mid-level organizational and individual processes supported with better data and decision making. He cuts through the fads and applies both cutting edge and time tested social scientific findings to your challenge. You might call Dr. Payne a human data strategist.

Dr. Payne’s consulting builds on decades of expertise in four broad areas:

  • Social Science: how people, organizations, and markets work
  • Research Methods: how to get better human data and use it for better decisions
  • Information Technology: making and implementing organizational IT choices, especially considering how people and technology interact
  • Optimal Decision Making: how to ask the right questions, identify the best answers, and incorporate them into your organizational procedures

Dr. Payne can provide crucial perspective on your management, marketing, process, organizational and strategic decisions.

As a data analyst, Dr. Payne provides a full range of quantitative and qualitative analytics and reporting services. But as a data strategist, his services go much further.

Better data drive better decisions in every area of your enterprise. They help you understand your organization, employees, clients, stakeholders, competitors, markets, and whether you are really progressing toward your goals. They allow you to better direct your precious resources and generate a better return on your investment. It’s now crucial to have an efficient, effective strategy generating better data and turning it into useful insights. It is certain that your competitors will. A comprehensive data strategy is an essential part of successfully operating in today’s markets.

As a data strategist, Dr. Payne helps clients ask better questions, get the most from data you have, find data you can use, and collect data you need. He analyzes it and finds the meaning so that you can put it to use. But, as a lifelong educator, he also shows you how you can learn to become a better producer and consumer of your own data.

Sometimes we all lose sight of the forest for the trees — and networked digital technologies have grown a very big data forest, indeed. Most organizations are already collecting some data (whether or not we realize it or are not quite sure how to best use it). We can become intimidated by “data” and give up, thinking it’s just too much trouble. We can get consumed with collecting more data and forget that all data aren’t created equal. If we have no data, or few data, then we realize we’re at a competitive disadvantage. But, in reality, we often have bad data or wrong data — lulling us into a false sense of security and placing our decisions on a shaky foundation.

The solution is more better data to make better decisions. Better data come from a better process. But the process doesn’t end with getting better data. Once you have better data, Dr. Payne helps you turn it into a stream of clear, useful insights.

[expand title="SPEAKING & TRAINING"]
Dr. Payne speaks on a variety of topics around useful strategies for making better individual and organizational decisions, as well as strategies that help you and your organization foster better decisions from others. You don’t just want your enterprise to make better decisions, you want to help your potential clients make better decisions that build long term relationships.

He’s able to tailor his talks to your organization, industry sector, or a particular event by drawing on a wealth of entertaining and timely examples appropriate to your needs.

He offers training seminars about introducing and applying the principles of fit/ADAPTS™ to all phases of better decision making: collecting better data, better analytics, interpreting data, and communicating your message.


Workshops & Training

Workshops & Training

Teach executives, professionals & employees about two things:

(1.) how to easily integrate data and scientific thinking into your better decision-making, and (2.) how to operate successfully under distress.

Advising & Consulting

Advising & Consulting

Advise organizations on the best ways to include data and social & behavioral science insights into existing workflows and decision-making so they won’t become blindsided by poor planning and wishful thinking.

Organizational Evaluation

Organizational Evaluation

Critical analysis of your organization or a specific program, process or policy, backed by real data and validated science, along with practical instructions for implementation, improvement and monitoring.

Interpretation & Reporting

Interpretation & Reporting

Using social and behavioral science, as well as business & management experience, to answer all-important questions for technical, business, or consumer audiences. Formats include written reports, presentations, slide decks & dashboards.

Data Analysis

Data Analysis

A full range of statistical & machine learning approaches; parametric, nonparametric & mixed methods; predictive, prescriptive & causal models. I select the right technique to insure you have trustworthy answers.

Research Design

Research Design

Bad data are worse than none. Make sure you’re collecting the right data in the right ways to reliably answer your organization’s questions. Includes surveys, interviews, focus groups, experiments, incidental & secondary data.

I’m Dr. Kevin J. Payne.  I’m on a mission to understand ourselves and our world — and help you put that knowledge into action through better decisions.  We do that through better data, real science, and strategic technology.  And we do that by knowing when to stop the planning and just act.

Better decisions mean better lives, better relationships, and better organizations.  Sure, it means being more efficient and productive.  But more important, it means living joyful and meaningful lives that make our world better.  And it means building enterprise that better serves its purpose and constituents.

After a lifetime as a university professor, I found myself settled into a tweedy academic existence.  That’s a great life.  I loved (almost) everything about it.  But it had grown stale.  It was day after day of “been there, done that.”  There were also some family health crises that prompted me to reassess my life.  I had a choice: I could settle further into this existence I hadn’t actually planned…or I could jump.

I jumped.  I decided to craft a place for myself using all the talents and experiences I’ve acquired.  I left the academy to become an entrepreneur and put my ideas and technologies out in the market where they can do some real good.  Now I consult, research, speak, write, train and build businesses.

Why?  Because I’ve spent my life mastering skills that are crucial for everyday life.  The social and behavioral sciences are the “owner’s manual” for better lives and enterprise.  The scientific method is the best way to understand ourselves and our world.  Data are the foundation for better decisions.  The right technology connects us, relieves us of drudgery, and enhances our efforts.  And all this insight is pointless if it isn’t used and shared.

What do I know that helps you?

One thing, really: how to study people and their relationships, organizations and markets.  But it turns out you can do a lot of things with this knowledge.


I hold a doctorate in Sociology with a collateral field in Psychology and specializations in Social Psychology, Theories and Research Methodologies from the University of Missouri–Columbia.  I know why people, networks, groups, organizations and markets work, and how to make them work better.


Since 1991, I have designed, implemented, supervised and interpreted hundreds of basic and applied projects in the social and behavioral sciences.  I’ve applied it to everything from marketing and business operations to program evaluation and policy analysis.  Gut decisions just don’t cut it in the hyper-competitive, always connected markets of the digital era.  But the scientific method shows us how to get past our well-meaning biases and shortcuts.


I first sat down in front of a computer in 1977 and grew up as a kid on the cusp of the digital revolution.  I’ve spent my life on the cutting edge of these technologies.  As a computer geek and technologist, I know which technologies to use to best get your job done.  I understand how people really use digital information technology, and how those technologies affect us.


I blend my expertise as a scientist and a technologist to deliver real human data science.  I look past the numbers to see the humanity they represent.  I find the meaning in your data and show you how to use it to make better decisions in your life and business.  You already have useful data or can get it.  I turn it into useful insight.


I’ve been a manager, administrator, intrapreneur and entrepreneur since 1998.  Entrepreneurship is about executing on a good idea.  The idea isn’t enough.  It’s the start.  What we do with it defines our success or failure.  Applied social and behavioral science informs the best execution.  But I also bring the “insider’s view” developed from my experience.

How do I help you?

Science isn’t just for the lab or the university.  And it isn’t something that only the largest companies can afford.  Science is the time-tested method for making and monitoring the best decisions in our data-driven world.  It’s the way real people and real organizations can maximize potential and gain competitive advantage.


In one way or another, I’ve consulted since the 1980s.  I bring a rare set of skills that most businesses just don’t need everyday.  But they are crucial for setting strategy, guiding operations, or implementing procedures.  They are critical for defining identity, monitoring change, or making important business decisions.  My combination of skills across social and behavioral science, data collection and analysis, information technology, and practical implementation give me unique insight into the solution for your most pressing business challenge.


Coaching is just consulting outside of a formal organization.  The same skills that build successful organizations also build successful people, relationships and groups.  I bring a rare blend of two perspectives to my coaching: the outside view of a scientist and the inside view of lived experience.  The outside view helps me see the trends and context of your challenges.  The inside view helps me see what goes unnoticed to an outsider and fuels my compassion born of shared experience.


As a writer for decades, I specialize in persuasively communicating technical insights in ways that the lay public can understand and appreciate.  Data, science and technology can be daunting, but they don’t have to be.  In fact, if you understand them, they can make the difference between success and failure.  I make them clear, engaging and useful for practical decisions.


I grew up as an actor and musician.  As a lifelong performer, I speak on a variety of topics blending my expertise with science, data and technology, and my life experiences.  Science gives us the “big picture” in a way nothing else can, but real experiences drive home the meaning and humanity.  I believe that we can entertain and enlighten at the same time.


I’ve been a teacher since 1997.  As a university professor for 15 years, my training seminars draw from my experience teaching 164 sections of 30 different courses across the social, behavioral, organizational and policy sciences.  Half of those were classes in the technical skills necessary to collect, analyze, interpret and use human data.  I also draw from my years of practical experience as a manager and entrepreneur.

Who do I help?
  • small to medium sized business
  • nonprofits, not-for-profits, service & support organizations, government agencies
  • associations, affinity & interest groups

I team or subcontract with other select consultants to tackle specific jobs that are enhanced through our complimentary skills.

  • entrepreneurs, small business owners, consultants, coaches & freelancers
  • those with chronic conditions & their care givers or support networks

Why them?  These are where my personal and professional experience, expertise, education and interest converge.  And, while they may look very different on the surface, they are each at the “edges” of normal personal and business operation.  There aren’t well-established models and they share a certain element of “making it up” as they go along.

What else might you find interesting?

My Businesses:

TeraCrunch (Co-Founder & VP, Decision Science & Solutions): a Big Data Predictive Analytics company, focusing on marketing (complete client relationship) and risk analytics solutions
DART Research (Founder & CEO): a research and development company focused on bringing social and behavioral science technologies to market
Real Pirates of Kansas City (Founding Partner & Quartermaster): historically accurate pirates for every occasion
And, of course, my consulting, research, speaking and training based on my decades of experience, education and expertise.

My Offerings:

Success ADAPTS: the science of making & monitoring better decisions in action
Finding Our Fit: why your world goes wrong and how to fix it
Human Data Science:
the researcher’s guide to behavioral, organizational, social & market research in the digital age
the consumer’s guide to making sense of data
A Real Pirate’s Life:
business lessons from history’s most extreme entrepreneurs
life lessons form the original American revolutionaries
No Place in Cyberspace: the story of our digitally hyper-connected world from punch cards to the cloud