- Small risks make it safer for people to say yes.
- Small wins psychologically make a person feel confident in their decisions
- Satisfying small wins builds trust, and minimizes fear
Any time we make a decision, we think that we are making the best decision at the time. We consider the variables, the expectations, and then choose. Once we make a decision that makes us happy, we have a strong tendency stick with it.
Based on the principles of behavioral psychology, we repeat patterns of behavior when our actions deliver an expected and desired result. These decisions turn into routines (or habits). You make a choice and then the routine is on autopilot. The outcome of satisfaction is expected.
This mindset is also true in the work people do during the day. Each person gets into a groove. Meetings with anticipated agendas, with similar 125-page PowerPoint presentations, delivered to the same people you meet with all of the time. Work becomes predictable and safe.
But, this is why introducing new ideas is so challenging at work.
Leadership will say that they want you to “think outside of the box” without taking into consideration the nature of people’s habits when faced with change.
By not adopting change, we choose to remain in our state of inertia. We stay in our happy place. You see, people don’t want “new”. They just want to keep things nice and “normal”. People do not embrace change. They embrace incremental changes that provide more value than what they are getting from their current decision.
But there is one other thing to consider. Psychologically speaking, losses are more emotionally painful than the potential of happiness in the future. It is emotional versus logical.Let’s say that people are used to the routine of creating a 125-page power point. You want people to focus more on “doing” the work, versus PowerPointing their asses off for an internal audience. If you suggest that all power points must only be 15 slides in length moving forward, people squawk that there simply isn’t enough space to communicate everything they wanted to say. They like the expected. They don’t want to screw up with a new method. They have mastered the art of a never-ending PowerPoint, and are afraid that their competence will be called into question with such a limited opportunity in slides.
Let’s say that people are used to the routine of creating a 125 slide power point. You want people to focus more on “doing” the work, versus PowerPointing their asses off for an internal audience. If you suggest that all power points must only be 15 slides in length moving forward, people squawk that there simply isn’t enough space to communicate everything they wanted to say. They like the expected. They don’t want to screw up “what they know” with a new method. They have mastered the art of a never-ending PowerPoint, and are afraid that their competence will be called into question if they don’t have the prompt of 125 slides.
So, what does this mean to you?
When you are trying to convince others to try new things, they need to feel safe. To feel safe, it is wise to convince people that it is okay to try a small, short-term risk. Many times, you can do that in a pilot, or a test, or a trial period. This way, a corporate conformist can still hold on to what is safe while trying on the new idea.
In the case of reducing the amount of time spent power pointing, you could suggest that for one week, everyone showcase the highlights in no more than 15 slides, with the safety net that if it doesn’t work, you can go back to the status quo.
What this does for the participants is:
- Allows them to say yes more quickly. After all, it is only one week and if it doesn’t work, everything goes back to normal.
- Builds confidence that they can communicate 125 slides just as effectively as in 15 slides
- Builds trust with you, that you have given them something of value. They step toward you and meet you half way.
This approach, also gives you the advantage of nixing the idea if it is a colossal failure.
One final tip that I have found to be useful, is to find those who are more inclined to try new things and ask them to “test” a new experience first. Then if it is successful, allow them to share the information with the people you are trying to influence. When you are not in a seat of authority, the more that the idea is more of a “buzz” the better. It makes the solution seem fashionable.
I realized I used a silly example of reducing waste in time by reducing power point slides. But this method can be used when onboarding vendors, trying new processes or designating work. Anything really.
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