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3 secrets from consumer research to power change

Posted by Phil Owens
Phil Owens
Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He
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on Thursday, 05 April 2012 in Leadership

I was working with a number of clients in Sydney recently where a similar theme came up about their organisations.  The struggle of creating change.

 

In the current environment, each organisation knows that it must continuously evolve and innovate.  The staff within these organisations know they need to evolve and innovate.  And yet – the process of driving change through entrenched systems is one of the greatest concerns that senior executives and leaders mentioned.

As an agent of transformation, getting individuals, teams and organisations to transform from ‘potential’ to ‘high performance’ is what I do – and it requires change.  Here are three insights I shared from the world of consumer behaviour research and advanced teams theory which helped restructure their thinking – and may restructure yours.

Research fact 1:  Behaviour is driven by context. 

It seems pretty obvious, but the research shows that individuals behave more according to their context than their personal attributes.  Consider the workplace as a ‘context’ – if you want to have the behaviours change in a workplace, they will most likely only change if you alter the context.  This can happen in many ways, by changing the rewards, incentives and resource flow (typical in a restructure); it can happen by creating greater self-awareness in the people (changing their subjective view of their context); or you can modify the processes that people follow.  In each of these circumstances (and particularly all three at the same time), the context change allows the opportunity for behaviour change – the trick is managing what it changes into.

 If a ‘bigger’ context exists for the employees, small context shifts will not change behaviour.  This is why everyone seems so keen on ‘culture change’ – not to change cultures, but because it will change the behaviours within.

Research fact 2:  Increasing ambiguity encourages greater and deeper information search before a decision is made.

Again, seems like it makes sense.  The reflection for business is that if you want people to buy in, then you need to provide them with as much CERTAINTY as possible.  There is no such thing as too much information.

On the other hand, you cannot change what people hear and think.  If the change process has made them feel ‘defensive’ (in fear of losing their job, or in fear of being left behind), sometimes they screen information to meet this mindset and they do not hear what is being communicated.

The take-home message is try to keep people from getting scared or defensive around potential change, then manage the communication through confidence and certainty so that in ambiguity, the employees want and can buy in to the message and process.

Research fact 3:  Individuals have a need to feel included, competent and liked.

If you consider this need in all people, and it seems to amplify in defensive or ambiguous states, then structuring your communication to make those you are communicating to feel included in the process, competent (and in control of some aspect of what is going on, perhaps through a simple choice), and liked or valued can make all the difference.

It is not about the facts that are communicated.  It is not about the dreams and hopes of the organisation – it is remembering that each individual is processing information through these filters.  Make them feel included, make them feel in control and competent, make them feel liked or valued as people and your message has a better chance of getting through.

Applying just these three ideas to your change process can have a massive impact on the result.  Miss one, and you may find how much harder change can be.

How have you seen these play out in your business or change process?

Which for you is the most important? 

What other key insights would you add?

Please add your thoughts and comments!

Stay resourceful,

Phil

Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He honed his skills working with executives and leaders around the world, coaching and consulting in over 30 countries, from entrepreneurial start-ups to boards of multi-billion dollar businesses.

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