So you're the agent of change in your group? The one that tries to make something new happen. I'm in your corner mate. I am of the opinion that construction needs to succeed with the transition we've started from project based logic to systems building. It's the kiss of death to be the one that keeps bringing it up, but I'm with you anyway. And you've got that big meeting coming up where you can bring your ideas to the table again. Let's have a look at that, shall we?
I used to work as head of engineering for an engineering consultant with over a thousand employees. Systems building was my main goal from day one. I thought back then that if I only had a watertight case, enough colleagues would see my point so that we could start working on the change together. I thought I only had to make sense. Silly me. You see, having taken on the responsibility of making change happen, I had the burden of proof resting squarely in my lap to overcome the bias of status quo. I failed.
And as I said, in the long run the concept of developing a systems-based logic for design is...
If you're anything like me, you'll feel like a clown trying to let unwilling people know what you can help them with. Well. That doesn't help anyone. Since then, I have learned that making sense is not enough. The engineery, logical type persuades noone. People will hear you but they will not listen, and they will certainly not act on what you say. Because apart from presenting a watertight case, you will need to overcome the audience's emotions and their bias. Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Logos alone will not help you.
You guessed it. This is old Greek stuff, Aristotle to be exact. It's knowledge about 2,300 years old. And let me tell you, I had no clue. I went for my reasoned argumentation and got polite nods and smiles, but no action what so ever. So, when we finally got the attention of that group of important people in suits, what do we need to do to make something happen?
Any community or organisation is characterized by a set of guiding beliefs. In this case, one of them will very likely be the status quo bias. "We're doing business as usual here, and it's bloody important business too." As agents of change, it is our job to show them that they have someting to gain personally in the short term from helping to bring the change about. Let's prepare the case for that.
The audience have emotions. Yes, they are actually PEOPLE. Save us. They worry. They get bored and think about other things while you speak. They check their emails. Let's quit yapping long, difficult words at them and start helping them feel comfortable in the change we are suggesting. Suggest small steps, one at a time. Be concrete. Let's give ourselves a fine for any buzz word we use that we haven't come up with ourselves. And for crying out loud, let's not take ourselves so seriously. Practise smiling for the camera, that'll give you about the right feeling of being a complete doofus. You're not, but you'll feel like one.
Ah, yes. The reasoned discourse, the logical argumentation. If we do not make sense, rest assured one of the opponents to the change we are suggesting will pounce on our logic. Everyone will immediately see their point because that's the easiest way out for them. We should check our facts and try our conclusions on people much like our audience and ask for their worst critique. We should prepare our argumentation based on that.
Now get out there and be heard. It'll be hard, but noone said change is easy. If it were, most of the people in the audience would be up there with you.
Images, Flickr Creative Commons: Self-conscious clown by Steenbergs and Rise Against live at The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids, MI, in November 2008 by YODCOX!