Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Influencing Change

I have been reading a fascinating book entitled Influencer - The power to change anything by Kerry Patterson… (et al.). The authors propose that in order to have impact on human behavior you need to address two fundamental questions:

* Do I have the skills, knowledge and ability to do what is required of me? In other words "Am I able?"
* What's in it for me? In other words "Am I motivated?"

Influencer explores the concepts of ability and motivation in the context of personal, social and structural factors.

Under personal motivation, the notion of "making the undesirable desirable" is introduced as a key element to influencing others.

What would this mean in the context of organizational development? As change agents we need to ask ourselves "Will this new behavior we are proposing (this new way of doing business) bring people pleasure and if not, how can we make the "old ways" less rewarding and the "new ways" more fulfilling?

For many, change is bad. Change is unsettling. Change requires time and effort to learn new ways. Change is feared because it is the unknown. Therefore, we cling to what we know. We cling to the "old ways" because it is safe and comfortable. For most then, there is little pleasure in change.

How do we make change more enticing in the workplace for example? The authors say that "there are two very powerful and ethical ways of helping humans change their reaction to a previously neutral or noxious behavior: creating new experiences and creating new motives" (p. 88)

1. Create new experiences

* By getting people to try it: For example, invite people to attend a staff meeting where a lot of time and energy was spent to create a festive atmosphere and to design a process where everyone's voice is heard and celebrated. Chances are people will leave feeling positive and more likely to support new approaches of doing business that are in line with the values that were demonstrated during that event.
* By making it a game: Transform the tedious into something more appealing. How can you make strategic planning more enticing? Instead of spending agonizing hours word smiting a mission statement you could ask small groups to put their creative minds together and come up with a poster with illustrations and slogans that describe their purpose and then make a "sales pitch" to the other teams. The best poster becomes the mission statement for their Branch.

2. Create new motives

* Connect to a person's sense of self: We cannot motivate people, we can only help create the conditions which may help them find motivation within themselves. If people feel that by adopting a new behavior they uphold the image of who they want to be they are more likely to change their behavior. How can we help people see that changing their ways can be a defining moment in their lives, a moral quest of sorts? The most powerful human motivator is passion - the power of a committed heart. What are ways we can engage the head and the heart of people? Storytelling is a good tool because in the telling of that personal anecdote or experience we are connecting facts with emotions. If your heart is open, chances are that your mind will be more open to change as well.

Food for thought...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On a recent trip to Thailand I was told by a local that all « good » Thai men will dedicate at least seven days of their life as Buddhist a monk (usually before they marry). What this entails is renouncing to all material things and relying on the generosity of others to feed yourself and clothe yourself. You are asked to spend at least two thirds of your day in prayer and meditation. You are denied any modern comforts like a bed (you sleep on the floor) or an iPod or cell phone. You can watch TV in the evening but only as a group in community. However, the only programs you can watch are news programs (no programs meant to entertain like sitcoms and game shows are allowed)

Shaving your hair, wrapping yourself in an orange robe and walking in sandals bare feet is a very symbolic way of declaring I am just one of you – no more or less important.

As a monk, there are no more outward ways of determining if I am rich or poor, highly educated or street smart, if I am a white collar or a blue collar, etc… All they can rely on to be truly seen and heard is their personality and inner resources.

All this got me thinking… What would happen if we asked North American men to spend at least a week in quiet contemplation relying on the goodness of others to survive? Would that have a positive impact on our fathers, brothers, colleagues? Would that change our cultural mindset of always wanting more and achieving more? Would that help us be more humble and grateful as a society?

What if we could find a way to give everyone that experience even for a moment? What would it change? My hypothesis is that we might, in that moment, experience humanity as it is meant to be experienced - just one human being among countless others trying to make sense of why he is here. For that moment we would just BE not DO. For that moment we would be present.

We are not here to outshine, outperform, outdo, outclass, outcast others. We are here to make a difference as only we can with our own unique set of talents and traits. We are here to help each other achieve their full potential as a human being.

Buddhism (and all religions for that matter) has a lot to teach us. These are two of my favorite Buddhist teachers:

Book by Pema Chödrön – When Things Fall Apart

Book on Mindfulness by Tich-Naht-Hanh