Archive for January, 2010

Where are our big blindspots?

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Mark Earls’ post called ‘Memories of the future (5) Things or people?‘ got me thinking about our blindspots when it comes to change and how stuff spreads through populations. It also has an impact on our approach to the evaluation of individual/mass behaviour change.

Mark starts by saying …

“it’s all to easy for us to get distracted by character of the things we make – by their stickiness and the contagiousness – and imagine that it’s these kind of qualities (and thus ultimately our efforts) that determines the success of the things (i.e. how far and fast they spread through a given population).

For me, the things we make include our behaviour change projects/programs and our efforts will make a big difference on the success of ‘our thing’. Mark suggests that this ‘default setting’ (or worldview) blinds us to the “underlying mechanism by which things spread: that is – through people.”

tech changes

Mark points to a few reasons why these blind spots exist …

“1. it plays to what we want to believe about ourselves as masters of persuasion and manipulation of the masses

2. it helps us avoid all that messy human stuff that can so bog brilliance down & (last but not least)

3. because everyone else does it, too.

Mark hen ends with a question …

“The future of marketing and related disciplines is really about getting better at the people stuff and embracing the messiness of it and our lack of real control over the outcomes.”

And to sum up, what does all this mean for the approach we take to designing, staging and evaluating change programs? If we truly take a ‘people focused’ approach in our work together … start embracing the ‘messiness’ and our lack of control over our project’s outcomes, what would change? What does our evaluation approach to behaviour change start to look like? What indicators become important? Which ones do we drop off? What are the new tools we need in our evaluation toolkit? And beyond the need for change, what do we need to pay more attention to?

Geoff Brown

Cartoon shown by Hugh McLeod over at Gaping Void

Collective Change Cycle for Wicked Problems

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

http___innotecture.files.wordpress.com_2010_01_wickedv1.pdfMatt Moore writes about wicked problems. Here’s some of what he says:

Wicked problems do not yield to best practice or by-the-book solutions. Wicked problems cannot be solved by a small group of clever people. Wicked problems can only be successfully tackled using collective, iterative and evolutionary methods.”

There’s an interesting exploration of a Collective Change Cycle. Read about it here and see what you think.

Cheers, Viv

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

2MASTERLinchpinA1Seth Godin has a new book out called Linchpin – Are You Indispensible?

Hugh MacLeod does a great interview with Seth about the book – in 10 questions. Here’s a taster:

“It’s so tempting to start dra wing maps for people. It makes them happy and it makes me feel smart. But resisting that temptation is the right thing to do, because once someone does it on their own a few times, they become unstoppable. Watching that change occur is one of the high lights of my professional life. And in fact, every great teacher I’ve ever known seeks the same outcome.”

And Hugh commented that the style of the book appeared angry. Seth replied:

“It’s not angry, Hugh. It’s urgent. I don’t think most people realize the precarious nature of our current situation, how close we are to the edge, and how little time we have to get our act together.”

I wonder what this book can contribute to our understanding of behaviour change?

There’s more information and links here.

Castlemaine 500

Monday, January 25th, 2010

In 2006, the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance (CVGA) secured Victorian Government support to fund a behaviour change program that would test – “by engaging a significant proportion of a township in household energy reduction – whether major savings could be achieved and measured at the regional level.” The objective was to get 500 households to commit to a long-term process that required active participation and input to achieve a 15 to 30% reduction in household energy consumption.

Castlemaine 500 was the project and used a participatory evaluation process that was built into the project from the beginning. In the report we draw on evidence from a number of evaluation methods used throughout the life of the project.

What is liminality and what has it to do with behaviour change?

Monday, January 25th, 2010

iStock_000003169472SmallGood question. I first heard about liminal space from Patti Digh and David Robinson of The Circle Project. Among other things, they work with corporate America to surface and tackle racism. Now if there’s one difficult subject for behaviour change, then racism has to be up there. They describe the work they do as “helping individuals, organizations, and communities create new patterns, new stories, new cultures.” Sounds like it could be another way of describing behaviour change.

So maybe there’ something useful in understanding liminality – or maybe not? You be the judge.

Liminal space is described (rather unhelpfully, I think) as the ‘space between’.

If you want to do some research yourself on this topic here’s a few options.

The Journal of International Political Anthropology, July 2009, (and you thought I was just a facilitator) is completely devoted to liminality. In the introduction, Liminality and Cultures of Change, the editors write “This issue is concerned with the concept of liminality, a major concept in cultural and social anthropology whose importance for the understanding of wider processes of social and political change has been understudied so far.”

And then there’s this article written by Charles La Shure titled ‘What is Liminality’.

Here’s the crux of what I understand about liminality and why it’s important to behaviour change (caveat – these are my own thoughts). If we’re serious about changing the way people act we have to consider that people act a certain way because of habit. I can only speak for myself, but I know that more information will not do the trick. In fact, Seth Godin wrote about a similar thing recently (albeit in relation to marketing). Here’s what he wrote about Too much data leads to not enough belief:

“Business plans with too much detail, books with too much proof, politicians with too much granularity… it seems as though more data is a good thing, because data proves the case.

In my experience, data crowds out faith. And without faith, it’s hard to believe in the data enough to make a leap. Big mergers, big VC investments, big political movements, large congregations… they don’t usually turn out for a spreadsheet.

The problem is this: no spreadsheet, no bibliography and no list of resources is sufficient proof to someone who chooses not to believe. The skeptic will always find a reason, even if it’s one the rest of us don’t think is a good one. Relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission–which is emotional connection.”

Now I don’t profess to know what to replace yet more information with – although I do know that building relationships and emotional connection is part of the answer – but I do know that if I’m going to change my behaviour, be it in relation to the environment, health, safety or whatever, I have to first LET GO of what I’m currently doing. That can be hard. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, my habits are, well, MY habits. I own them. They are a part of who I am. They are a part of my character. They make me feel safe (if not be safe), and they are predictable.

When you’re asking me to change a particular behaviour (even if it’s for my own good, or for the well-being of others, or even the planet) you’re asking me to let go of something familiar and take up something unfamilar. That space between letting go and grabbing on to something new is called liminal space. You’re asking me to enter a space of unknowing, of uncertaintly and of change. Is it any wonder I’m reluctant?

I’m more likely to enter liminal space if I think it’s OK, if I feel safe, and have some idea of what I’ll be grabbing onto. Think of it this way. If you were a trapeze artist, would you let go of the bar if there was no safety net and no-one on the other trapeze to catch you? Or if the trapeze is a bit of a stretch for you, think of monkey bars at the playground. Spend some time watching kids playing on them. There you can see liminal space in action. It’s not possible to make any progress on monkey bars unless you let go of one bar before grabbing hold of the next one. In fact, that’s probably an even better analogy for behavior change, because on the monkey bars, you usually hedge your bets – holding on to the previous bar with one hand while grabbing the next one with the other. Sooner or later though you STILL have to LET GO to progress.

So in our behaviour change programs, what are we asking people to let go of and how are we supporting them in liminal space?

Cheers, Viv

Motivate that Elephant

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Shawn Callahan over at Anecdote has read the first chapter of Chip & Dan Heath’s new book called Switch – How to Change Things when Change is Hard. By the way, Chip & Dan have another great read called Made to Stick.

Here’s some of what Shawn had to say about it

“It’s (Switch) all about how to motivate people to change. The first chapter has left an indelible impression because of the strong image they conjured to explain what we need to consider to influence change: the Mahout (they call it The Rider), the Elephant and the Path.

Changing behaviour involves a struggle between our rational and well-reasoned thinking and our emotional urges. The mahout represents the rational and reasoned. If the mahout clearly understands where he needs to go he’ll direct his charge that way.

The elephant represents emotional urges. While the elephant might be happy to go the way the mahout directs, if she decides to go another direction there is not a single thing the mahout can do about it.

The path represents anything that might impede or assist the mahout and the elephant to get to where they are going. You want the path to be as easy to follow as possible.”

What’s this got to do with Show Me The Change?

Shawn then goes onto look at what the ‘Elephant’ means in organisational settings and this is where he hits the nail of the ‘SMTC-head’. Over at the “Our Approach” page on the conference website, one of the key principles we have applied to the design of this conference is this one … Exploring the tangible AND intangible.

When exploring (or evaluating) the emotional component of change (the elephant), we are dealing with the intangible. Shawn talks about the use of ‘story’ in organisations and writes …

Engaging the elephant, the emotion, will take action and stories about things that happened. You might start by telling some stories of customer service blunders to grab their attention. Here’s one that happened to me recently. It’s important you find stories from the organisation. Real life examples. Negative stories, however, often in themselves wont change behaviour, partly because people don’t know exactly what they need to do to get it right. So you also need to find stories of great customer service from your company. We call them Gibson stories because William Gibson (the sci-fi writer) once said: “the future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed.” You just need to find these stories that represent your company’s future. Tell them. Get people to discuss them. Inspire that elephant.”

In the lead up to and at ‘Show Me The Change’ in May this year, there will be spaces for you to explore the ‘intangibles’ and share your real life examples of evaluating behaviour change. That process can start right now by visiting our Showcase Your Evaluation page and provide a snapshot of a project that you have been involved in. In fact, I’ll share some stuff about Castlemaine 500 right now!



ps. Many useful story-based evaluation tools also exist and will be shared at SMTC. I am most familiar with the Most Significant Change (MSC) Technique which seeks to uncover the ‘unexpected’ impacts of a project or program. How else is story being used in this space?

The Art of Metaphor

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Here is a short presentation by James Geary @ TED on ‘Metaphorically Speaking

About 5 minutes in, James talks about how our langauge influences the way we interpret the world and in the decisions and predicitions we make. Metaphor is another lens through which we can view human behaviour.


It's about conversations and relationships

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

A while back, Chris Corrigan wrote this post called ‘Lessons About Invitation‘.

It’s about relationships and conversation. Elders tell me time and again after years of working in organizations and living in communities that the quality of life and work always comes down to relationships.  Younger adults and youth will talk about action and outcomes and getting things done productively and efficiently, but older people, who have time to reflect on their careers constantly tell me that focusing on relationships is more important, for quality, sustainability and effectiveness.  With this in mind, invitation needs to be about relationships and conversation too.  An one page written invitation is a sterile beast.  It does not reflect the mode of being that we are inviting people too.  If we want people to enter a conversation, we need to invite them there WITH conversation.  So reach out beyond sending out the email, embody and practice invitation with relationship building and conversation.”

Thought I’d share this with you all.


How hard is behaviour change?

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I love this video made by James Glave to promote his book Almost Green. While it’s all scripted, it has a pretty powerful message regarding behaviour change. What do you think? Hat tip: Chris Corrigan