How Many Behaviour Scientists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? Professional Journey Step #25

How Many Behaviour Scientists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? Professional Journey Step #25


Often there is a lot of worthwhile, thought provoking insight in an otherwise whimsical quip such as a ‘light bulb joke’. Heads of organisations face the inherent elements within this particular change example every day. To put it into perspective – so you know what the hell I am talking about.

It only takes one Behaviour Scientist to change a light bulb… BUT the light bulb has to really want to change. <Insert groan>

You will face this dilemma all the time; How to get your people to really want to change. Our work climates, more than ever before, are ‘disruptive’ – a word bantered about a lot and with varying definitions and applications. For this exercise let’s define simply as constantly throwing unexpected deviations our way. The solution to this, assuming we want to not only survive but also make the most of these situations, is to utilise all the resources available to us, adapt and overcome – in a word be resilient.

However, you’ll find resilience is not enough – resilience is an admirable trait but by definition it is the ability to withstand or recover, pick yourself up and return to the position you previously occupied. When something comes out of left field you will need this capacity but the preferred goal would be to develop and evolve from this reactive state to a proactive anticipatory state, which will get and keep you beyond where you were. So you can disrupt as well as be disrupted.

This requires creating an environment within your organisation, which welcomes change and knows how to deal with it at all levels internally and externally. Like the light bulb, your people ‘have to really want to change’ in fact love and embrace change.

So today’s Professional Journey Step is a few tips on how to:

Get Your People to Accept and Want to Change

  1. You must have a strong, well-communicated and well-understood purpose and proposed outcome for the change(s)!!

You have likely seen or read the stats about how many change initiatives fail. I’ve read studies and reports suggesting between 65-85% range. That is astronomical and has actually become in itself one of the fears of change for many organisations. So don’t get caught up in the belief, if so many fail then it can’t be done. The real reason so many fail is attributable to a large degree to this first point. The communication is too limited and not presented in the best way for organisations’ varied audiences. Remember your objective, to get your people to accept, engage with and contribute to the change. This will take all your communication skills and knowledge to accomplish. You are dealing with facilitating a change in behaviour; attitudes and bias’, which are already solidly established within your organisation so make sure you’re addressing this, with all the skill and resources required.

  1. Get over the most false belief about Change – that people don’t like it! This is WRONG!

This is the misnomer of misnomers – but it is an easy excuse and way to avoid what is hard work. People DO NOT dislike or even fear change. They fear the unknown, what the change may bring which might take them out of their comfort zone. Remember this in all your communiqués and face to faces with your people… Provide them not only the benefits of the transformation but also the similarities to the old way – remind them much of what they had been doing; processes, procedures, location, people… etc. are still the same so the ‘change’ is less dramatic than they may ‘fear’.

  1. Have an established method / process to manage the change

There are no shortage of ‘change methods’ available, each claiming to be the best and most effective. We have looked, and used, many of them and have three favourites, which we modify to best match a particular organisations’ situation. We do recommend you use a methodology to enable you to stay on track and measure your progress. Those are the two main reasons to use these tools.

These tools are also one of the main reasons many change initiatives fail – organisations start to rely too heavily on them and think they are the silver bullets to change. REMEMBER – these are a change Management tool and change has two sides; management and leadership. If you don’t address each element appropriately and fully you will fail! {Note: I dislike the term ‘Change Management’ so much because it is used so prolifically, generically and incorrectly to be the whole process. There is a management AND a Leadership element to effective and sustainable change. Why we call our program Constructive Change – it is designed to address all elements.}

  1. Have champions to help Lead the change

I’ve yet to meet a head of an organisation, even the most revered, who is as powerful in influencing the people within their organisation as much as a peer group. Identify who your potential Champions are for the transformation. These will be what are called ‘early adopters’ of ideas. Then from that group choose the ones who are most trusted and respected within your organisation {Advice: select the most respected and trusted from the perspective of your people not you or your managers – these are too often not one and the same>.

Make them the standard bearers and provide them opportunity to do most of the ‘selling’.

  1. Create a psychologically safe environment for your people to participate and contribute to the change

This is a wide topic and will cover a good chunk in my next book so its difficult to put into a few lines but here goes. If you don’t have an environment within your organisation where people ‘Feel’ safe to espouse and share their ideas, speak freely and suggest improvements then you can forget about any dreams of being innovative, creative or embracing change. You have bigger issues, which need to be addressed first. {Advice: as above, don’t assess this internally – you are too biased and close to the forest to conduct this assessment properly.}

  1. Reward the results intrinsically more than extrinsically

Your change may, and likely will, reap fiscal benefits for your organisation. Share this with your team however because motivating them to act in embracing the change is an emotive exercise – no action happens except by an emotional (feeling) catalyst – it’ll require intrinsic recognition and reward.

Transformation done properly is a complex process, difficult to represent thoroughly in a short article. We’ve shared only a few points of many and all of these are comprehensive. Please give them a read and contemplation. You CAN build not only resilience but also a proactive and productive thirst for change within your organisation if you are aware and address all of the contributing elements of a successful change initiative.

We welcome your comments, insights. We happen to have proven ability and knowledge in this area so if we can help you with any aspect of these please reach out; we’re here to help. Its what we do and why we exist.