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3 Truths to Work With (or Against) When You Have to Change Minds

If you’ve been paying any attention to my posts, columns, and presentations, then you know just how important I believe – nay, I know – managing change is to the success of any information venture. So it won’t surprise you to learn that I resonated like a tuning fork to a few of the concepts published yesterday in Fast Company that had nothing overtly to do with information governance.

1. “Many people form their opinions, at least in part, based on whether they think others share those opinions.”

The need to “fit in” is hardwired into the human psyche, no doubt because, millennia ago, being outcast from your tribe likely meant your early demise. Today, the risks usually are much less dire, but the instinct to conform persists nonetheless. (Watch this social experiment for a light-hearted look.)

This reflex reaction can be harnessed to your advantage by gathering together like-minded individuals and utilizing that old sales technique in which you ask questions to which you know the answer will be “yes”: “Don’t you want to be able to find information faster than you do now? Don’t you want access to the information you need regardless of which system it lives in? Don’t you want to use a technology that lets you work the way you always have?” Properly orchestrated, people’s opinions will become self-reinforcing in the direction you desire, and the first part of the battle will be won.

2. “The more frequently you encounter a piece of information, the more favorably disposed you are toward it.”

Long substantiated by professional political panderers, this particular principle maps precisely to my time-honored catchphrase “change management = marketing” because it’s all about repeating your message, to all of your intended audiences, as often as you can get away with. (This is the underpinning of the marketing Rule of 7, which posits that people need to see a message at least seven times before they will consider taking action.)

In enterprise information terms, this means constantly and creatively promoting the tangible business benefits of the work you are doing (or wanting to do). It means repeatedly distilling those benefits into definitive answers to users’ critical question, “what’s in it for me?!” It means not talking about “SharePoint” even if that’s what you’re using, but referring to something more generic so as not to worry the technophobes in the crowd. And it means staying away from uneducated guesstimates like the one made famous in the 1983 movie Mr. Mom: “Yeah, 220, 221. Whatever it takes.”

3. “Thanks to handy ‘unfollow’ and ‘mute’ buttons, we get to choose what bits of information to attend to.”

This may be the toughest nut to crack because we can’t control what information people choose to actively filter out. Someone who really doesn’t want to accept your new way of organizing information, engaging in a business process, or participating in some other data-based activity will simply delete your emails, block your social media memos, or ignore you at the water cooler.

The trick is to couch your message of change in terms of some other communication that he or she may very well want to hear. Just as we wrap doggie medicine inside a yummy treat, so we need to embed our new best-practices in something alluring – perhaps an invitation to a company-sponsored special event (a ballgame, a show, a trip) that is open only to those who, say, tag/move/manage some significant percentage of their emails by a certain date.

At the end of the day, what you’re after is an organization full of people who are receptive – or at least not openly hostile – to the changes you are trying to make. The good news is that human psychology in this regard is fairly well understood. The bad news is that it can be quite challenging to work with and work around. Hopefully the 3 Truths adapted here will help ease your way.

What other techniques have you used to change minds and behaviors in your organization? What worked? What didn’t? Let’s talk about it.

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3 Truths to Work With (or Against) When You Have to Change Minds
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Safety in numbers, repetition & treats with a purpose > 3 Truths to Work With When You Have to Change Minds
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About the author: Steve Weissman

Steve Weissman is Principal Consultant at Holly Group and Co-Founder of Information Coalition. A trusted advisor for more than 20 years, he is a recognized expert in information governance and process innovation – or as he defines it, in the “’care and feeding’ of critical business information and the technologies used to manage and protect it.” Known as The Info Gov Guy™, Mr. Weissman leverages a proven proprietary methodology to optimize everything from your strategic planning and needs assessment to your vendor selection and user adoption. He is a member of the AIIM Company of Fellows and holder of numerous industry designations, and can be reached at steve@hollygroup.com or 617-383-4655.

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