There are various versions of today's Big Idea Blog title, attributed to Archimedes the third century Greek inventor (and mathematician, engineer, physicist and astronomer) -- the most consistent accurate translation I can find on having a lever is:
"If I had a firm enough place to stand, I could move the world"
The version that comes to mind most often goes something like "With a big enough lever, I could move the world".
Big Ideas are like that: Once grasped they have the power to leverage change and levers need pivot points. That's where change agents come in -- we identify the pivot points.
In order to effect change you have to understand a little human psychology. What motivates people to change their minds and positions on usually deeply held convictions? It turns out, less than you'd think!
If you're following my tweets or we're LinkedIN you'll know that I've recently been reading "Influencer: The Power to Change Anything" on my B&N Nook -- the highlight feature is working great! (Attention Change Agents of the World: Read this book next! In fact, I would even go so far as to suggest you stop reading whatever you're reading now and go buy/download this and read it right now. It's that important.)
Among the very high number of really big ideas in this book, chief among them is the concept that in order to understand successful outcomes, there are certain vital behaviors (inputs not outputs) that must be identified first -- usually found by looking for positive deviance. These behaviors above all else help explain success versus failures in just about any context. From understanding why the women in one impoverished sub-saharan village have figured out how to filter their drinking water in their dresses to avoid Guinea worm infections and the next village over doesn't -- to radically changing the lives of hardened convicts from repeat offenders to productive, and most of all, happy citizens.
The key to changing just about any behavior, including in ourselves, comes down to two very simple questions. Change one or both of these, and you have a lever to move the world!
Ask or get someone to answer the following when it comes to making a change from where they are, to where they need to be:
1. Will it be worth it?
2. Can I (they) do it?
If the answer to one or ideally both is "YES" 90% of your work is done. Yes, it's really that simple. Weave a compelling story (not a set of facts, figures, or a scared-straight shock approach) and you'll create a vicarious human experience that allows its participants the safe distance of watching while at the same time projecting themselves into the situation.
An example from MBA-land that set out to test memory recall -- the experiment divided a group of students into three sections and presented the same information in three modes; in one, the students were given a set of facts and figures, in the second group, a power point presentation was made from the same data, and in the third, the students we're told the information in form of a story about a struggling winemaker trying to make ends meet. Which do you think had the highest recall even six months later? The students who had heard the story about the struggling winemaker reported having thought about it periodically often as analogous to some other situation they were a part of. The vicarious story gave them a hint of the situated context.
That's academic of course, and as my former business partner Jon used to quote from the Simpsons, "in theory, communism works...in theory....". So lets look for real world, big ROI from using these ideas. The authors recount case after case of positive change from getting a factory union to understand the threat of outsourcing, to turning the tide on the spread of AIDS in Thailand, to encouraging hundreds of thousands of people in Mexico to pour into the streets in search of free literacy material, to changing century's old deeply held traditions on encouraging young women in India to marry at far too early ages. In each case, the power of the narrative combined with the vicarious experience enabled people to realize that whatever change was desired/required -- It was worth it and they could do it!
In each one of these examples (and millions more around you everyday) the critical element is the change agent at the pivot point. People don't spontaneously change deeply held beliefs or traditions on their own. The change agent alone cannot pull the lever by him or herself -- in fact I would argue they don't pull the lever at all (or certainly not by themselves.) They enlist the power of other influencers, primarily people recognized as thought or opinion leaders embedded within the culture itself. These are the people that are consistently looked to as an authoritative source of knowledge and information (also know as a subject matter expert). And it's not authority alone that earns them their position.
In order to be a thought leader, two simple conditions must be evident:
1. Are you recognized as having a deep knowledge of the given subject?
2. Do people trust your motives?