Inspiring change

Inspiring change

Status quo rocked, but that’s inaction not reaction

Photo by SunsoakedCreative, March 2015 View image

Intuition is recognition born of experience; I love that statement by David Meyers as much as I love the one from Herbert Simon that intuition is “analysis frozen into habit” I found it because our last election was so.

It’s amazing how many big decisions are made intuitively. There is a fantastic read which has been kindly posted on the net; Judgement Misguided: Intuition and Error in Public Decision Making by Jonathan Baron, in it Jonathon unpacks the psychology behind decision making and how it relates to questions of public interest.

I found it because our last election was so interesting, I wanted to know if anyone had analysed the psychology behind the messaging, interactions and decision making of GE2015. There are some, all standard stuff, such as why safe seats are safe, from the Guardian, a bit of fluff from the BBC, and a post-election view from a magazine that has probably been featured on Have I Got News For you,Nature But it’s Jonathan’s book which is the most compelling read, even though it’s not specifically about our election but about the psychology behind decision making.

It seems to me that the status quo effect won, not the old rockers, although that would have been more amusing, but the guys that didn’t need to have an argument, they just needed to keep everyone calm and place the burden of proof on the others guys. The other guys failed to prove any magic. It was as simple as that.

It feels like it was a big deal but when we stop and think about it, wasn’t it just more inaction? Yes the conservatives got a small majority in their own right, no need for a messy coalition but that was a mind game anyway, right? We were being told the coalition was messy, poor Nick Clegg was hung out to dry and so the easiest, least harmful thing to do was to keep the current decision makers where they are doing what they have been doing. They didn’t even have to tell us where the cuts were going to come from because the burden of proof was on the others and we were told over and over there was no trust there (cue note “there is no money left”).

The other guys failed to prove any magic. It was as simple as that.

Getting people to change is notoriously hard, I’ve been doing it for over 20 years and it’s still the hardest thing to do. I hate the statement “people don’t like or are resistant to change” because it’s over-used and it’s an easy out but it’s true at a very fundamental level, right in the heart of our brains. We are hardwired to avoid harm. We go to great lengths to avoid it, even when all the evidence shows that taking protective measures is more likely to prevent harm, we avoid any measures that may cause harm.

In this election there were so many conflicting factors for our heads to cope with, so many unanswered questions, so much avoidance; did we eventually give up and take a default setting, limiting ourselves to our own behaviour; self-interest, standards, principles and social pressure and then we wrapped it up with a dollop of wishful thinking “we’re doing alright”, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, and my favourite “it could be worse”?

Now there is all this talk about the fact that Labour may never get into power again, Dave has already said he will be sunning himself on a beach in a couple of years and the SNP loom over waiting to strike. Can you smell operant conditioning in the air?

From my perspective there are two clear barriers to change:

  • The other politicians that have to convince us their way is better and how they choose to do that
  • The political system we have to vote in

The other politicians that have to convince us their way is better and how they choose to do that

As Labour embark on electing a new leader, they say they are trying to learn the lessons they have been forced to face, that so far seems to have been translated into picking a leader the public likes. In fact, they think that is so important, we all get to vote if we want. We don’t have to be members of the Labour Party. They are actually saying “we got it wrong last time, so this time you choose.”

Am I missing something, or are Labour actually getting people to apply for the job without saying what the job is? Or more to the point, without sorting the bigger question which is who are we (Labour) now? Left? Left of Centre? Centre?

It’s OK because when we pick the person we like, we will have decided what the job is at the same time and Labour will base who they are around that, is that really the strategy?

Can you imagine that happening in the corporate world? We don’t know what this business is going to do for the world, the need it’s going to fill but everyone loves you, so that’s got to be the best starting place!

Very interesting, when the most impressive case study we have all seen recently is the rise of Nicola Sturgeon, which was on the back of a positivity campaign, clear policies and plans (I know, not all watertight but a lead message that was decisive and clear) led by someone who although once was seen as “nippy sweetie” now seen as being combative, inspiring, sincere, calm and determined.

I want to shout STOP. Focus on how to produce the best results where there is greatest need. Listen to what people are really saying. Decide who you are and what you stand for.

Now pick a leader.

The political system we have to vote in

The winners got 36.9% of the vote share, which of course means 63.1% of people didn’t vote for them, almost two thirds. Generally, we still believe our vote doesn’t count and in a way it doesn’t. We have to be strategic with our voting, a layer too far for most, and although I loved the site that popped up to allow you to swap a vote with someone you didn’t know, should we have to go to those lengths in the democracy we shout very loudly about all round the world?

Electoral reform would be a significant statement of change. It would clearly say that our political landscape has gone beyond a two party system, that there is an exciting heat and light that comes from having different views and having to work together. It would bring politics closer to the real world we have to work in.

There will be no interest in the Conservatives doing this, everything to lose and nothing to gain in their book, but what about Labour? A fantastic opportunity to spearhead the democracy of the future, modernise politics #justsaying.

Getting people to change is the hardest thing to do, even harder when they are at the top and the perils as well as powers of intuition get in the way. I hope belief perseverance doesn’t get in the way for Labour, it did last time. Getting people to understand the value of their vote is credible but only when it’s based around a solid outcome i.e. if the action of 100 people affects the outcome of 100 people then the decision feels personal and our thinking kicks in, without a solid outcome, those thoughts are cheap.

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