My Purpose is Provoking Change. So I’m very interested in the change process. I’ve observed how easy it is to persuade people about something if they have no preconceived views on it, and how hard it becomes once they’ve ‘made up their mind’. I’ve observed how our worldview ‘frames’ profoundly affect what we believe, and what we’re prepared to believe, and always trump facts. I’ve observed how hard it is to bring about real, sustained change in large organizations, even with coercion and massively expensive change projects. And lately I’ve observed that:
We do what we must, then we do what’s easy, then we do what’s fun. There is no time or energy left for what’s needed to save the world, even if we can agree on what that is.
In response to this, ‘KF’ wrote:
This made me think of those of us who are inclined to think about saving the world. We’re no different than anyone else but in some ways it must be more necessary, easier (perhaps because years of necessity have translated to a degree of skill), and more fun (the enjoyment of acting in accordance with, rather than denying, our nature) for us to be this way…If others are just acting out their wiring (their particular brand of what is necessary, easy, and fun) we must then try to “package” world-saving as necessary, easy, and fun in order to obtain, if not cooperation with, at least toleration of, [some] proposed solutions.
To see if this ‘packaging’ might be possible, I put together a model of how people change (their minds, their beliefs, and/or their behaviours), and the result is the graphic above. Here’s a brief walkthrough:
Daniel Quinn used his stories Ishmael and Story of B to introduce new information to people in a non-threatening way, in order to get them to the point they were ready to change. He says, in Beyond Civilization:
People will listen when they’re ready to listen and not before. Probably, once upon a time, you weren’t ready to listen to an idea than now seems to you obvious, even urgent. Let people come to it in their own time. Nagging or bullying will only alienate them. Don’t preach. Don’t waste time with people who want to argue. They’ll keep you immobilized forever. Look for people who are already open to something new.
Quinn is saying that, as entertaining as they may be, debates don’t change minds (except for those who haven’t yet really made up their minds). So, in addition to the things we can do to change hearts, minds & behaviours (the things in the left column of the chart above), Quinn points out what we should not waste time doing: bullying, nagging, arguing, preaching and debating. As much as I admire An Inconvenient Truth*, I am not convinced it’s going to accomplish anything, because it’s preaching to the choir. Who, among those not already convinced of his message, will go to the theatre to watch this film, if something easier or more fun is playing on the screen next door?
Many of the changes we need to bring about, alas, are complex ones, and require more than one iteration of this chart. Ran Prieur, according to a note I received from Peter Ireland, has called David Korten’s book The Great Turning, “Final Empire for Dummies”. What he’s saying is that, while I was impatient with The Great Turning for not having
…practical discussion of how to create models, intentional communities, sustainable natural enterprises, peer-to-peer sustainability information exchanges and personal sustainable living programs. You know, community-building stuff. Real what you can do stuff,
Korten has produced a book with information, geared to appeal to a wide variety of frames, that could get a lot of people from point A to point B — at least aware of the need and opportunity for change. They will then be ready for change, and more open to the additional stories and information (like those on this site, and Ran’s crash story, and James Kunstler’s dystopia The Long Emergency, and even William Kotke’s Final Empire) that could ultimately get them from point B to point C on this complex and difficult change journey.
We humans do change slowly! For three million years that was a blessing, keeping us from messing with Gaia’s remarkable balancing act. Now, as we careen out of control towards the end of an unsustainable civilization, it’s become a curse. But, as KF says, those of us who are ready to change are finding it more urgent, easier and more fun than it was even a few years ago. And as a result we will keep changing, andchange faster. And we do, and will do, what we must.
* Coincidentally, the Inconvenient Truth website, on the What You Can Do page, has suggestions very similar to the One Tonne Challenge. And they’re easy (if not much fun).
June 11, 2006
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