I've written a lot about change over the years, as it is such a big part of our work at Common Ground. I'm always thinking about how it happens, especially when it comes to people. This great piece from Harvard Business Review offers some very interesting insights:
How do you get leaders, employees, customers—and even yourself—to change behaviors? Executives can change strategy, products and processes until they're blue in the face, but real change doesn't take hold until people actually change what they do.
I spent the summer reviewing research on this topic. Here is my list of 10 approaches that seem to work.
1. Embrace the power of one. One company I worked with posted 8 values and 12 competencies they wanted employees to practice. The result: Nothing changed. When you have 20 priorities, you have none. Research on multi-tasking reveals that we're not good at it. Focus on one behavior to change at a time. Sequence the change of more than one behavior.
2. Make it sticky. Goal theory has taught us that for goals to be effective, they need to be concrete and measurable. So with behaviors. "Listen actively" is vague and not measurable. "Paraphrase what others said and check for accuracy" is concrete and measurable.
3. Paint a vivid picture. When celebrity chef Jamie Oliver wanted to change the eating habits of kids at a U.S. school, he got their attention with a single, disgusting image: A truckload of pure animal fat (see photo). When Oliver taught an obese kid to cook, he showed how cooking can be "cool" — walking with head up, shoulders back, and a swagger while preparing food. This gave the boy a positive image he could relate to. As Herminia Ibarra outlines in her book Working Identity, imagining new selves can be a powerful force for change. Use stories, metaphors, pictures, and physical objects to paint an ugly image of "where we are now" and a better vision of a glorious new state. This taps into people's emotions, a forceful lever for (or against) change.