The website Edge.org is a great place to find stimulating ideas. The project brings together great minds to ponder deep questions. A recent interview with Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA professor of psychology, caught my eye. Lieberman is the author of Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect.
In the Edge interview Lieberman explains the social psychology of persuasion. The basic premise is that, If I want to persuade you, what I need to do is pitch my arguments so that they're in the range of a bubble around your current belief.
Leiberman has found that brain regions involved in successful persuasion are those connected to social thinking, which is more about identity than rational analysis. For an idea to stick you need to be able to “try on” the identity that it suggests. For example, if you want people to quit smoking, they need to be able to see themselves as a non-smoker.
It's no different in workplace transformation: People need to be able to see themselves in the new space. If the notion of mobile- or collaborative-worker falls outside the bubble of decision-makers' self-image, then they won't be able to see those workplace options at all.
As a consultant, I’m sometimes surprised by short-sighted decisions clients make about workplace opportunities. Occasionally, it even seems like decision-makers dismiss rational arguments in order to protect the status quo or even their own narrow interests. It never occurred to me that rich possibilities might be truly incomprehensible because they fall outside a social self-image, on the other side of the “latitude of acceptance.” To help promote positive transitions that make the workplace more productive, we need to start within the bubble of current beliefs.