Here we are, signing off February – aka the psychological cemetery for 80% of New Year’s resolutions, according to the U.S. News & World Report (2018). Some of us are no doubt already feeling a little overwhelmed by everything we have set out to achieve in 2020. And some of us may be feeling downright crappy that we can’t seem to live up to our own high expectations of ourselves. But when it comes to change, there’s no quick fix… or is there? I think so, and the good news is that it is highly scalable!
The difference between who we are and who we want to be is a source of cognitive dissonance for many. I have long believed that the ritual of New Year’s Resolutions only serves to amplify and reinforce what we see as lacking in our selves. This perceived identity deficit, or gap, happens to be the engine room of our economy. The study of consumer behaviour has long known that to secure share of heart, mind and pocket, brands must promise to help close the gap between our current and desired state. The cynic in me knows however, that so long as each consumer purchase only goes part way to making us feel better, the gap will remain; the cycle of consumerism will continue, entwining emotions and economy as happy partners, and secure their measure of GDP growth. So how do we take back ownership of our gap and build bridges between who we are and who we want to be that allow us to grow sustainably?
My three top habit hacks
The science emerging around habits offers an alternative way to address the dissonance. The notion that ‘we are what we repeatedly do’ is a tangible and pragmatic way to master our goals, without expending significant money, time or even willpower in the process. As James Clear explains in his book ‘Atomic Habits’, it’s the tiny things that we do each day, that when enacted frequently and with consistency, define not only our behaviour, but our identity. Add to that accountability – the simple act of telling someone what we are hoping to achieve – and our chances of success increase by 70% (Matthews, 2015). Finally, own your start of day and end of day routines. These are powerful triggers in our daily cycle. Begin as you wish to continue, and continue as you wish to begin!
#1 MVH – Minimum Viable Habits
Minimum Viable Habits or MVH refers to the idea that successful behavioural change can be achieved by breaking down new habits into the smallest possible components. Think consistently placing a glass of water next to your bed each night if your end game is to drink 3 litres per day. Or simply putting on the gym gear every morning when you wake up if eventually, you want to do regular training. Due to the non-threatening and non-disruptive nature of MVHs, our brain doesn’t fight them. Once on the path to a new routine, the habits can be slightly tweaked to move you closer to real behavioural change at regular intervals.
The frame of reference I use to decide whether a habit is going to be worthwhile is whether I can do it frequently, and with consistency. The brain appreciates it when we can chunk routines down into a series of small, attainable habits – it gets to take a break! And that’s our chance to slide behavioural change in. The beauty of MVHs, is that humans have a tendency to want to be consistent. We like ticking off the list, showing we’ve made progress. The streaks app is a powerful tool that challenges its users: “Don’t break the chain, or your streak will reset to zero days.”
Science out of NASA traditionally holds that habits take 30 days to form. However more recently, research has shown it’s about the reps, if you are intentional about what you’re doing, small habits can be built, embedded, tweaked and scaled superfast.’
#2 Identity Habits – Say it Out Loud
Returning for a moment to the notion of cognitive dissonance, we all tend to portray ourselves to the world in our desired state. Whether that be the images we allow to appear on social media, the parts of our lives we select to portray when people ask how we’re doing, or simply preferencing carrying out tasks we already know we’re good at. Identity-based habits leverage this natural tendency in a positive way. We have a strong desire to be consistent with the version of ourselves we put out there, and so voicing a newly committed habit out loud, to people we care about, immediately makes us accountable.
The benefits of ‘saying it out loud’ however, seem to require careful selection of our accountability partner. Recent research out of The Ohio State University finds that people tend to be more committed to their goals after they share them with someone who they see as “higher status,” or whose opinions they respect. A Dominican University study found that more than 70% of participants who reported their progress to a friend were successful in goal achievement, compared to only 35% of participants who kept their goals to themselves. Numerous apps have popped up to facilitate social sharing of habits online, allowing users to select which goals they share and with whom they share their goals. The takeaway?
As humans, we are subconsciously strategic about the self we put forward to the world. In living up to this ‘self’, we benefit from being consciously strategic about sharing these goals with trusted and respected allies that will help champion our change. Who will hero your habits?
#3 Habits as Rituals – Own your start and end of day
For my 2020, I’ve been more attracted to wellness goals than productivity goals. This has brought into sharp focus the importance of setting the right tone each morning and closing out the day on the right note every evening. When we think of rituals, we tend to conjure tribal ceremonies, religious celebration or even tricky looking yoga poses accompanied by green juice. However, not all rituals need to be ornate, just quietly meaningful and easily repeatable.
When it comes to beginning and ending your days, simple rituals that embed intentionality can be extremely useful. The etymological meaning of ritual in zoology pertains to ‘giving each animal the time to assess the prowess of the other’. Therefore, ritual is about preparation, intentionality and ultimately, thriving in a sometimes hostile environment.
“Morning Sunshine” – my favourite a.m. habits
The morning rituals I have garnered along my journey involve:
1) a daily focus on the personal values I wish to live by
2) iterative realignment on both short and long-term goals
3) routine exercise and meditation
“Sweet Dreams” – 5 key p.m. habits
The other powerful point of intentionality happens just before we go to sleep. What is the last thing we think of each day?
1) a brain dump helps me transfer everything I have to do tomorrow to somewhere tangible so that it’s no longer on my mind
2) the Grateful app helps trigger a sense of humility, perspective and contentedness
3) my MVH is reading one chapter of a non-study, non-work book each night – thanks to this achievable practice, I’ve read three additional books already this year!
These small moments string together as a touchstone – helping steer the course when life throws unexpected challenges our way. These habits are less about closing the gap on our own cognitive dissonance and more about sitting in our true selves. As many leaders are realising, constant striving for growth is not necessarily socially healthy, environmentally sustainable, nor economically smart in the longer term. On a personal level too, ambition can start from within, rather than without.
I’d love to hear how you are getting along – what habit hacks work for you and what throws the routine out of whack? I’d even love to hear which New Year’s Resolutions you’ve buried.
The legacy we pass on to future generations will inevitably involve challenges, but must not be founded in hopelessness. The least we can do is track a road forward, most of all when the decisions of leaders seem to signal a dead end.
Interviewing former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other prominent leaders as MC for the Professional Convention Managers Association (PCMA) in San Francisco this month, we discussed how to move forward when the stakes are high and the path is unclear. Ultimately, she said, “you have to keep your wits about you, you have to trust your instincts and your gut, and those around you. You have to make the decisions, because not making a decision is making a decision.”
As the youth of today see the news of devastating bush fires in Australia, read the twitter trail of a global leader spreading divisive ideology across the world, experience underemployment even in the most developed countries, we can understand why statistics show an estimated 10–20% of adolescents globally experience mental health conditions (World Health Organisation, 2019). Add to this, almost half of all millennials think it’s more likely than not there will be a third world war in their lifetime, a new Red Cross surveyfinds. Are we going to let history write the future?
As a leader of today, Rice is clearly focused on empowering the leaders of tomorrow. She emphasises the need for those in charge to demonstrate trust in their people by delegating and investing in training. ‘We must allow them to colour outside the lines’ she says.
Can we imagine a democracy wherein the government actively comes to the youth for ideas, for better questions, even for solutions? I have been fortunate to have seen the success of initiatives such as the G20 Youth Summit in action. I believe there is so much to be gained in bringing different voices together to explore collaborative policy design and development. So long as we are clear on who our decisions are serving…
How does our democracy serve us?
“We are only as strong as our weakest link” says Rice. And I wonder, what if our weakest link is in fact, a democratically elected leader? Democracy operates at its best when functioning as a platform for ideas, dialogue and debate. Democracy is founded not on consensus, but contention. As famously penned by Evelyn Beatrice Hall (and often mis-attributed to Voltaire!), ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ (1906).
When uncertainty is not met with curiosity but fear, democracy dies just a little. When injustice is met with depression and apathy rather than anger and outcry, democracy dies a little more. When our very existence is threatened by convenience and we continue on in indifference, then ‘democracy grief’ is real. The question is not how democracy is serving us, but how we are serving our democracy. “You can get through difficult times, but it doesn’t happen magically,” Rice says. She claims she doesn’t look to Washington or state government to take responsibility, but asks herself daily: “What am I doing to take responsibility?”
Like the air we breathe.
For those of us living in western countries, it is too easy to take liberal democracy for granted. Just as we are accustomed to each intake of clean air, each glass of pure drinking water, each child off to school and each purchase of the morning paper, the convenient assumption that we are free to express ourselves and steer our own course is pervasive. But is it true?
Democracy brings us convenience. But it’s a convenience built on consumption. And while we are consumed with consuming, we can’t step back with the objectivity, awareness and space to change our behaviour- our addiction to this convenient life.
What the young leaders of today are calling for is a new kind of democracy. One far more agile, active and connected at grass roots level. One typified by leadership that exhibits empathy and compassion, and is prepared to pioneer new policies and new ways of evaluating democratic health, like the government Jacinda Ardern is leading in New Zealand. One that is less lumbering, less strung out on political puppetry, one that doesn’t rely on never-ending growth to achieve the votes that will drive it forward. But globally, where is the alternative to growth? What is the political paradigm that will support this democracy of the future?
‘Democracy is like a muscle’ writes Carol Rose in the Boston Globe this month. ‘The more we exercise it, the stronger it gets.’ (Carol Rose, Boston Globe, 2019). As we move into 2020 and our own inconvenient truth becomes harder to ignore, I wonder, when was the last time many of us felt the energy of youth to fight against what has gone before? Where is the will to dismiss the diary appointments for today and instead dial up the challenge to the status quo – even when this status quo is paying down the credit card? Where does the will for activism come from?
Rice’s experience has given her perspective on the difficulties the nation faces today. In our interview she says, “I know it is a tough time, but we have been through tougher.” To be open when the inclination is to shut off, to take a risk when a calculated decision is impossible and to hope against despair – that is the legacy we need to leave the future generations.
Linguistically, democracy contains the idea of demonstration. So if nothing else, let us shake off the shackles of convenience and demonstrate our hope for the future.
Malcolm Gladwell has always been someone who not only pushes boundaries through stories but pushes the boundaries of stories. Earlier, this year I was privileged to have the opportunity to interview Malcolm at the Energy Disruptors 2019 Conference in Calgary. We delved into a wide-ranging discussion of his new book “Talking to Strangers” where he illuminates the many ways in which we misunderstand, mistrust and miscommunicate with each other. Our conversation made me wonder, if our natural instincts mean we’re wired in ways that limit and hinder our ability to foster connections with strangers, then how do we tell a different story? How do we navigate trust in an age where our value will rely on diversity and collaboration?
“We evolved as human beings in very, very close-knit family and intimate circles, and now we’re in a position where we have to deal overwhelmingly with people outside those intimate circles. And the skills we were perfecting for 100,000 years that worked on the intimate group, really don’t work that well on strangers.”
Malcolm Gladwell, #EDU2019
How to tell a different story?
Interestingly, given all the banter we hear about how hard it is to get cut-through in this ‘noisy’ world, Malcolm argues that if we have an authentic story to tell, then there has never been a better time to tell our story. He asserts that the trick lies not in speaking, but in listening. In any given social media minute, 41.6 million messages will be sent over Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, 347,222 people are scrolling Instagram, 87,500 people posting to Twitter and 4.5 million videos on YouTube are being watched.
Who are these people and why would they stop their ergonomically scrolling thumbs to listen to you?
As he unpacks his reply, the beautiful mind of Malcolm Gladwell meanders between trust, inequality, social context and cultural subtext. I ask, “Do we have a trust crisis?” To which Malcolm emphatically replies ‘no’. He points out that 15 years ago, the concept of hitting a button on a cellular device, waiting for a random car to show up, hopping into the said random car, to be driven by a complete stranger, while relying on a phone to map the correct route and then hopping out with no exchange of money or credit card swiping… was simply incomprehensible. Trust, these days it seems, is crowd-sourced. It’s not lost but it has morphed.
Malcolm argues, “On a macro level we are so insanely more trusting than we ever were”. We simply don’t have the time to walk around wondering if we should trust the bank (even post-Royal Commission), if we should trust the childcare helper looking after the kids (pending another Royal Commission), if we should trust the café owner making our food (or perhaps, more accurately, whether they’re paying their staff…) or even the Uber driver in charge of our safety. ‘Evolution selected us to trust people implicitly, unless we are given overwhelming evidence to the contrary’, says Malcolm.
“Talking to Strangers” explores whether the innate trust humans have developed over eons, continues to serve us in this hyper-connected, borderless age. Historically, we are used to interacting primarily with people who were ‘like us’. We assume that a smile is acceptance, a handshake is a deal and any number of other broad-sweeping generalisations can be made simply because… well we just assume it to be so. This isn’t necessarily an issue until trust blends with comfort, melds with compliance and tiptoes into unconscious bias.
At that point, we become incapable of telling a new story.
If trust enables us to form groups, communicate and collaborate more effectively, does trust also facilitate us excluding or dismissing alternative people and viewpoints? In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, short termism and fake news, can we trust what is presented to us by known (aka “trusted”) entities? Research shows that echo chambers function not by closing off external voices, but by openly distrusting and discrediting them, because ‘trust is an essential ingredient in belief-formation’ (Syed, 2019:186). In “Talking to Strangers”, Malcolm terms this phenomenon “default to truth”.
This short-cut route to belief-formation means that, often without the time, resources or motivation to make anything other than an assumption, we consume narratives without a lens of critical thinking. How does this affect collaboration with diverse minds? Growth into new markets? Innovative products to new customers? Malcolm suggests that we ‘read people from across cultures, the same way we read simplistic TV’. Unless we have some imperative to know what another person thinks, we only ask questions relevant to our answers. And we only hear answers relevant to our questions. In terms of today’s need to disrupt by design, ‘like-mindedness’ is of course catastrophic.
As an example, Malcolm discusses tech innovation and the incredibly slow adoption of milestone inventions such as the telephone. The telephone took a generation to catch on because its inventors did not comprehend the social context of the innovation. Malcolm asserts, ‘Social context wins over technically useful innovation, every time’. He runs through the three typical cycles of product innovation by companies:
The 1st story we tell the market is invariably a reactive power play
“Look! We have invented a shiny new thing.”
The 2nd story is often a misguided marketing play
“Look at the shiny new thing we have invented for you.”
The 3rd cycle is where finally, the symbolic meets the functional and society evolves around a new story
“Here’s a couple of new things our thing can do, how much it shines is up to you.”
If trust is built on our own limited reference points (biologically embedded by clan-living over a few hundred thousand years) the question for leaders, thinkers, collaborators and decision-makers is really, can we trust ourselves?
In order to change the story, we need to listen.
The telling of the story is in the listening. Malcolm exemplifies this with his work on the influential podcast ‘Revisionist History’. Billed as ‘a journey through the overlooked and misunderstood’ the resource is an encapsulation of how we can cut through the noise. When I ask how we get outside the box to debunk traditional thinking and create a new story, Malcolm replies, “if you are willing to do your homework, you will automatically be in a position to tell a story that the rest of the media is not telling.”
Today, with the proliferation of new technology applications driven by a homogeneous few, short-term efficiencies and pressure to deliver will propagate decision-making built on hidden risks. The lack of cognitive diversity will mean that reference points are cloned and outcomes fail to account for longer term and broad ranging impact and capability. As we bring our inspiring chat to a close, Malcolm asks “If technology is an engine of inequality, how can we hack the system?”
With hindsight (and a couple of months to ponder this question) I’d posit that by listening beyond our own need to be heard, we begin to hear the social context our words will fall into. By collaborating beyond the solution we think is needed, we will shift the zeitgeist of what’s permissible. And by being more generous with trust and the stories we choose to share, we begin to square the ledger on the trust account.
We choose to trust in difference, because indifference will get us nowhere.
As I look back on 2019, one of the absolute highlights was collaborating with the masterfully creative Adam Ferrier and CJ Holden to produce s p a c e – a gathering of unlike minds. The three-day event was an Australian first, built on a framework of peer-to-peer learning, with no speakers and no spectators. The event attracted a community of disruptive leaders -affectionately named our inaugural s p a c e cadets – to Byron Bay to disconnect, collaborate, and create in one of the most inspiring locations on earth.
s p a c e was built on a few big ideas:
We need to have more
In an age of intensifying digital echo chambers, breaking from routine thinking and giving ourselves over to unconventional collaborative experiences is paramount to creativity, critical thinking and empathy. s p a c e is designed to deliberately interrupt our norms, give us pause to reveal assumptions and seek out new thinking. Curiosity and play supersede self-consciousness. With no fear and no formal agenda, we are able to step up and own the collective experience. We give each other permission to be ourselves, rather than our job titles.
No passengers allowed.
There are intentionally no
official speakers or themes at s p a c e, the content is designed and led by
our attendees. In this way, a spirit of generosity runs through s p a c e, with
each attendee contributing something of their
choosing to the fully immersive and participatory program. This manifests in
the form of talks, workshops, skills sessions or whatever can be creatively
concocted! In fact, our participants’ creative interpretation of the brief (on
top of the wide array of interests and passions of the content itself) was one
of the standouts of s p a c e.
You do you. But make sure you ‘do’!
We know life-long learning is critical and cross-pollination of ideas extremely valuable, yet in an age where people fly for hours to attend a conference in person, practically every conference, festival or event retains a one-size-fits all, cookie-cutter approach. We want to shake up leadership in Australia by challenging the way we convene our leaders. The s p a c e format is a facilitated smorgasbord, allowing everyone to navigate the three-day experience in choose-your-own-adventure style. From sunrise Friday until well past sunset on Saturday, participants had the opportunity to attend as many different sessions as they liked, each led by peers. Often there were as many as ten different sessions running at once!
We designed the event specifically to ensure our s p a c e cadets were compelled not only to do as they pleased, but more importantly, to ‘do’. s p a c e has a real focus on turning conversation into action with ‘do-tanks’ providing the opportunity for attendees to pitch ideas and build a team of helpers to pursue their aspiration. This year, s p a c e do-tanks spurred 10 post-s p a c e projects covering everything from education to indigenous leadership development and urban evolution.
Our overarching goal was
to play a part in building a more ambitious Australia through shared ideas and
collaboration. What stands in the way of such collaboration? Australia does
seem to habour a few parochial handicaps. We think it’s time we kicked tall
poppy syndrome to the kerb and supercharged our country’s ambition. It’s time
we united the people who believe in constructively trying to solve problems versus
destructively denigrating the attempts of others on social media.
We believe, as Einstein put it, that the definition of insanity is thinking we can keep doing things the same way and get a different result. We hoped to create the conditions for new conversations and collaborations to flourish- the space to be challenged, to explore, to think deeply and to, after three short days, find yourself with scores of new friends, colleagues and potential partners-in-impact. And we were truly humbled by the reaction of the community who participated in round one… the letters, emails and calls we received in the weeks following s p a c e conveying the positive impact and emboldened focus of participants was awe-inspiring. This groundswell has energised us to take s p a c e into new territory in 2020- creating more immersive experiences, working on diversifying our community even further and taking do-tanks to another level.
Tech-optimist? Tech-pessimist? Tech-pragmatist? …Where do you sit?
Every day, we read about mind-bending new technologies
or innovative workplace practices on one hand, and stories of mismatched skills
being taught to young people or significant workforce retrenchments on the
other. So how do we separate the theatre from the threats and chart a path
forward? What are the major considerations we need to be turning our attention
to when it comes to the ‘nature’ of technology?
This was exactly the focus of my conversation when I interviewed former US Ambassador to Australia (and namesake of the Jeff Bleich Centre for Digital Technologies, Security and Governance) Jeffrey Bleich. Throughout our conversation, I was struck by his pragmatism, his awareness of the complex implications of technology and his willingness to act. This, I believe, is the substance we need from our leaders – courageous individuals who are prepared to take it in, take it on, and take the best of humanity with them.
How do we think, truly broadly about the digital ecosystem?… We haven’t really thought about the fact that digital technology is changing the way people live, breathe, work, eat and think about their lives …Thinking of it as an ecosystem that is particularly challenging to democracies.
Here are four of the big ideas from our conversation:
Conversation #1: AI has arrived. Ethical guidelines
Scientists and AI experts agree that we are in a race
against time: we need to establish ethicalguidelines
to catch up to technology’s irreversible integration into our lives. In January
2019, Gartner reported that AI adoption tripled in the last year alone, with
an estimated 37% of firms now implementing AI in some form. In a recent Deloitte
survey, 76% of
executives said they expected AI to “substantially transform” their companies
within three years. Since 2017, more than two dozen national governments have
strategies or plans to
develop ethics standards, policies, and regulations.
The problem? No two strategies are alike. While some Principles may correspond, the context of issues such as ethics, privacy and bias all shift dramatically between countries and cultures. Major technology companies are ahead in the global race to develop ethical guidelines and AI governance teams. We see new partnerships between Facebook and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) forming The Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, with an initial investment of $7.5 million. Amazon and the National Science Foundation recently earmarked $10 million for AI fairness research. Unless governments can get ahead of rapid change, the rule-breakers will become the rule-makers.
In theory, global bodies such as the OECD have
gathered support for overarching Principles on AI. However,
in practice, governments,
corporations, academic and science communities pursue AI strategies that do not
relate to each other. So how can we
possibly figure out how they relate to us?
Jeffrey Bleich stressed the need for systems-thinking – to understand that nothing happens in isolation from this point on. Just as international laws around space or the oceans exist, global AI ethical standards are surely achievable?
Conversation #2: We need to see technology through a
Every single choice you make, every thought you have, every aspect of how you move through the world is being gathered in these devices and it’s being constantly updated in ways that can’t really be controlled by our current cyber security technologies… The fact that we’re not thinking in those terms, should concern all of us.
The next generation will need to see their world as a
whole system – a seamless interface, perhaps. This is true of digital
technology’s impact in our governance systems, our workplaces, our homes, our
own brains. We are hyper-connected and every day, less able to switch off. AI
is becoming so integrated in our world that we lose sight of where it starts
and stops. How many hours in your day are completely free from technological
interruption or influence? Even when you sleep, it’s likely your behaviour is
being tracked simply because you didn’t update your phone settings. When you
wake, do you take a moment to think ‘how do I feel?’ Or do you reach for a device
to find out? As we move through our days, are our choices arising internally
from a desire or an idea? Or are we behaving according to predictive (and
prescriptive) behaviour models?
And what exactly is an AI? There is no precise
and accepted definition of AI. Is it machine learning? If so, how developed? In
movies we know AI to be non-biological consciousness. Usually portrayed as a
single connected entity. But as we move incrementally along the journey we
struggle as citizens to understand what is going on behind the laboratory doors
of big tech companies. Let alone how our governments are regulating to protect
us. If AI poses a threat, it moves behind a cover of normalised convenience.
Conversation #3: We need to adjust our governance. In
our homes, workplaces and democracies.
When we think about governance, we think about what the government does… but governance is the set of norms that we all live by… some of it is training ourselves to be more aware of threats and to adjust our own behaviour.
Whether we think about privacy, security or
surveillance, we need to understand that the changes technology brings run
deep, and currently, largely run free. As we’re already seeing, digital
technology has the potential to fundamentally shift our trust in each other,
which gets to the core of relationships and the bedrock of our communities.
This new domain requires a rethink of governance and of leadership throughout
In our conversation, Jeff discusses the urgency with
which leaders need to be having more mature conversations. We need to be across
AI, automation, mobility, blockchain and education. Leaders need to get out
ahead of issues, developing policy for 3-5 years’ time, rather than arguing
about 5G or autonomous vehicles like we still have a choice.
Leadership is needed to ensure we don’t let digital
divide. The poorest communities stand to be most at risk from job loss, information
exclusion and limited connectivity. In parallel, autocratic countries are
finding technology a useful means to exert more control over citizens. Will we
have a cold war in cyber? Is technology borderless? Or will it create new
Conversation #4: Human agency is being impacted
I think humanity is going to be very different at the end of this century than it is right now. It’s a hard thing to contemplate but we will. We will be augmented by tools that we’ve developed… technologies that we’re already using, we are changing the way our brains are wired, the way we think about the world.
For most of us, in all our humanness at this time in
history, AI represents a mechanism by which our behaviours are grouped, sorted,
targeted and modulated by data intelligence. Technology was born to enhance our
lives and advance our impact, but conversely, as its influence on us grows, we
find ourselves ring fenced and judged by its learned assumptions. Who is dictating behaviour now?
Algorithms tend to move us iteratively toward our own
extremes. Here’s an example Jeff gave in the interview: When we decide to watch
a youtube video, the experience becomes mediated by the algorithm, showing us
options of further videos to watch. When we click on something, the technology
pigeon-holes us and begins to show us slightly more extreme versions of what it
thinks we may like. If you click on a dog, your next set of options will be
different sets of dogs. If you click on a small dog, pretty soon you’ll be
looking at those handbag-sized pooches. In this way, the human brain is guided
further down a path or our own bias. The internet (un)naturally tends towards
extremes, with a capacity to fool humanity into the worst of itself.
Finally, here’s some food for thought from the
inspiring Jeff Bleich that I’d love to challenge you to discuss with a friend
or colleague: “At what point do we lose our wonderful, messy humanity, our
story-telling, our mistakes, our illogical tears and become rational,
predictable, superficial versions of ourselves?”
Appearing at Partner Connect 2019 Day Two, the Emergent CEO offered her advice on how business leaders can embrace change and set course for a more successful tomorrow.
Holly Ransom knows a thing or two about managing change in life and in business.
As the chief executive of Emergent, a company specialising in disruptive strategy and building the capacity of leaders to execute change, Ransom has developed her career along the themes of innovation and disruption.
Named one of Australia’s ‘100 Most Influential Women’ by the Australian Financial Review, Ransom has delivered a Peace Charter to the Dalai Lama, interviewed Barack Obama on stage and was Sir Richard Branson’s nominee for Wired Magazine’s ‘Smart List’ of Future Game Changers to watch in 2017.
To say that Ransom has some wisdom to share on the topic of change management is a severe understatement, which is why the attendees at MYOB Partner Connect 2019 were eager to hear her keynote presentation on the subject.
We can’t afford complacency
Ransom began her presentation by highlighting the challenge presented by a world undergoing significant disruption.
“In 1898, the US Patent Office came out and said that everything that could be invented, had been invented.
“Which is effectively like saying: ‘Hey everybody, put down your tools, let’s go to the pub – humankind has peaked.”
Ransom asked the audience to contrast that statement against all the change and innovation they’ve witnessed in their lives over just the past 18 months.
“We can’t afford complacency,” she said. “We can’t afford US Patent Office mentality to creep in.”
Things are moving faster and people are expecting brands to move with the same speed, and that has real impacts for things like customer response times, as just one example.
Ransom believes the small, repetitive behaviours that people perform on a daily basis are a far more powerful force for change than any quick fix.
“Relative to our goals and aspirations, and the way the world is changing, are our habits still serving the results we’re in pursuit of or do we have to change it up?”
For some, the change is already here and it’s evident in the way people are approaching how they think about their work.
“We’re moving out of an old paradigm into a new paradigm,” said Ransom.
“There’s a model for the way we worked in the industrial age that is broken relative to the way the world is demanding we work in 2019.”
“How do we start seeing life as a series of sprints?”
People are talking about ‘healthy stress’ versus ‘unhealthy stress’, ‘productive downtime’, ‘change fatigue’ and more as we struggle to come to terms with how we can adapt to a rapidly changing business environment.
Identifying your strength wheelhouse and the 24-7-1 method
It’s at this point that the practical nature of Ransom’s advice came to the fore, as she lay out a method for leveraging change.
The method relies on a reframing of what the way we think of fears in our lives.
“Something’s happened to the word ‘fear’ in our culture,” Ransom said.
“It’s become sensationalised, which means we have become desensitised to how it can turn up in daily life,” she said.
Ransom described fear as also being the many actions and activities people tend to shy away from in their day to day existence, preferring to exist within their comfort zone instead.
The area outside of a person’s comfort zone is their “courage zone” — an area populated by the habits we could (and should pursue), but tend not to.
“Between comfort and courage is the red line of resistance – the thing I want everyone to think about.”
The entire model Ransom describes as the “strength wheelhouse”, which she believes can act as a good model for planning behavioural growth.
“The best part about this is the amazing reward for effort you receive when you do the think you’re afraid of – your comfort zone expands.
“It’s just like being in the gym building a muscle – as your comfort zone expands, so situations you weren’t comfortable with before suddenly become easier.”
But, as Ransom pointed out, there’s no point going after big behavioural shifts all at once.
Instead, business owners and entrepreneurs should consider a more incremental approach.
“You’ve heard of Minimum Viable Product? I’d like to propose Minimum Viable Habits as a model for how we can go about dealing with change in our life and work,” said Ransom.
It’s a method that’s designed to work for our modern, busy lifestyles.
If workers are busy with their day-to-day, trying to enact large change quickly is more likely to fail.
Instead, Ransom suggests the “24-7-1” approach.
“The idea is that, within 24 hours of hearing this information, you need to take an initial bite-sized action step.
“The action is meant to be so small that it’s inexcusable you didn’t get it done in 24 hours.”
She recommends that step might be as simple as drawing up your own strength wheelhouse with all the things that are within your comfort zone and all the things you’d like to achieve that lie in your courage zone.
“Then, within seven days, you take a bigger step again.
“Within one month you’ve got to take a bigger action step again.”
This is Ransom’s blueprint for building minimum viable habits; something she says can be just as useful for teams as it for individuals, in work or life in general.
“Once you’ve gone through 24-7-1 once, then you roll it forward into a whole new one.
“And that’s because the single greatest ally we’ve got in trying for change is momentum.”
So, what would your strength wheelhouse and 24-7-1 action plan look like today?