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What are the key things I need to do to motivate people to accept and embrace change?

The other day someone asked me: “What are the key things I need to do to get people to accept and embrace change?” It made me think back to the behavioural theory I absorbed while researching my book The Change Equation. So I sat down to list them and came up with five. I’m sure there are at least the same number again, but these were the ones that came to mind:

  1. Design the change so that the ‘default’ choice is the desired one – 80% of people will take that route. (Make the right choice more difficult and 80% will continue to behave as they did before, or revert to that unproductive behaviour over time.)
  2. Make the change simple, personal and easy to understand and build in cues to remind people to take the non-habitual action until it becomes habitual.
  3. Don’t use fear to motivate people. Fear is only a productive, sustainable motivator when people feel personally vunerable and think they are in a position to control the threat. Mostly, fear triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response – the defensive, inward-facing ‘survival’ stance which leads to denial and hiding from the threat and suppresses the creativity and innovative thinking needed to solve complex problems.
  4. Positive reframing of the threat to emphasis the opportunities and benefits can motivate people to act, provided the positive outweighs the negative by a ratio of 3:1 (Lasaro) and that the benefits are immediate and not set in some distant future.
  5. But loss aversion is an even more powerful motivator than gain, so the reframing can include opportunities to avoid penalties and personal loss (embarrassment, loss of status etc as well as financial).

So there they are… practical strategies which seem to work. Let me know if you have any more.

How you apply these strategies is up to you, but I’d recommend that before you do, you read Marcella Bremer’s great new book: Organizational Culture Change: Unleashing your organization’s potential in circles of 10

Good luck!

February 4, 2012 - Posted by | business change management | ,

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