When you’ve got to feel it in your bones

To create awareness of why a change in behaviour is needed, you need people to feel that need for change. In a recent blog post I talked about John Kotter’s concept of See, Feel, Change and the role it plays in the change process.

In that blog post I shared one of my favourite stories about how a procurement specialist got his senior management team to feel the need for change around product rationalisation and centralised procurement. When you explain the story like that, it sounds like the most boring story known to mankind! But, it’s not. It’s a story I share often to bring the concept of See, Feel, Change to life.

If I have time, and it’s an area the audience has interest in, and struggles with, then I also share with them a clip from the BBC series Spendaholics.

In the show psychologist Benjamin Fry and ‘lifestyle expert’ Jay Hunt, take on the challenge of turning around the finances of someone who has been living beyond their means.

They start each episode working to understand the person’s actual financial position and where all their money has gone. Then its starts to get interesting. They do an exercise to make the person see and feel the size of the problem. Here are some examples.

In this scene Benjamin and Jay and trying to get Anna to understand how much her “little treats” are costing her, by creating a way for her to see and feel the need for change. They pile her bed with plastic seafood and shellfish to represent the £5,760 (AU$9300, US$7200) she spends on dining out each year. They then fill her kitchen full of coffee cups to represent the £3,285 (AU$5300, US$4100) she spends on takeaway coffees. You can tell by the look on her face that she is shocked by how much she has spent on these things.

In this example, student Caroline is shown how much her spending is out of control, by a long table full of meals and wine glasses they represent the £170 (AU$274, US$211) a week she spends on dining out. A huge amount of money, made even more shocking when you are told her parents have already paid for her meal costs for the year, so the £5100 (AU$8200, US$6300) a year she spends on dining out is all discretionary spend!

The last clip really shows the emotional impact this kind of intervention can have. When Rudo is confronted with 3000 bottles of nail varnish, which represent the £3000 (AU$4850, US$3700) she spends on nails and beauty in a year, she responds by saying; “I actually feel quite disgusted. In fact, really disgusted.”

The challenge for us all who work to help others change their behaviour is how we can create memorable, impactful, emotional experiences so people can see, feel, change. The alternatives just don’t work. As Dan and Chip conclude in their brilliant Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard; “Trying to fight inertia and indifference with analytical arguments is like tossing a fire extinguisher to someone who’s drowning.

Credit title: Radiohead – Bones

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