I’ve been reading two books during the past couple of weeks, “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins and “What the Dog Saw” by Malcolm Gladwell. Whenever I read a book, I read it with an eye towards lessons or insight I can use in organizational change. Robbins’ book is full of insight; Gladwell’s has its moments. These disparities of insight stem from the difference in construction and intent of the two books. Robbins wrote his book as a roadmap for helping individuals change; whereas, Gladwell’s book is a collection of his previously published articles. This makes Gladwell’s book somewhat disjointed in its flow. But what really sets the two books apart is how Gladwell does a great job presenting information, but fails to connect the stories with any insightful takeaways. So while there are a lot of “that’s interesting” moments, there aren’t many “ah ha” moments in his book. He merely tells a bunch of interesting, but loosely coupled stories that leaves you with an “interesting story, but so what?” feeling. Robbins, on the other hand, overwhelms you with insight. His stories are designed to give insight (and action plans) that leads to transformational change.
That being said, there are two essays in Gladwell’s book that are worth reading and thinking about with respect to the process of organizational change. These essays are “The Pitchman” about Ron Popeil and “What the Dog Saw” about Cesar Millian.
In the “Pitchman”, Popeil’s major premise is that -- first and foremost, the product has to be the star. The way I related this to organizational change is that the purpose for organizational change has to be the star. The purpose for change is everything. If people don’t understand the purpose for change, change will not occur. Therefore in the initial stages of change, everything has to focus on the purpose of the change.
Popiel goes on to say about the products he sells, “You have to explain the invention to customers – not once or twice, but three or four times, with a different twist each time. You have to show them how it works and why it works…then tell them precisely how it fits into their routine and finally, sell them on the paradoxical fact that, revolutionary as it is, it’s not that hard to use.” Think about that statement. It embodies how change needs to be introduced, and “sold”. Change, like any product you use, is an entity that needs to be understood, and accepted before it can be used. This means there needs to be a process of for introducing and explaining change (one that I think goes well beyond the classical “communication plan”). This quote by Popiel helped me understand that introducing a change is as much of a...