I was teaching a masterclass on foresight when the manager halfway in the back of the room, let's call her Paula, shared her dilemma. Paula was aware of significant emerging disruptions that could impact their organization severely, but her CEO resisted putting it on the agenda.
As she spoke, I could see the frustration in her eyes. She knew the organization needed to adapt, but she couldn't get the top to listen. So, she asked for tips on how to convince them.
However, the urge to convince is recognizable but counterproductive, especially in foresight.
Why, you ask? Well, first of all, we don't have all the facts about the future. We're dealing with emerging trends and scenarios yet to unfold, so claiming certainty is misleading. Trying to convince others of a specific view of the future can present it as the only possible outcome, which might not be accurate or inclusive of other potential scenarios.
Secondly, our personal views are limited by our experiences, biases, and assumptions. What we believe may not align with others' views or the facts that emerge. When we try to convince others of our view of the future, we may overlook valuable insights and contributions from different perspectives. This can lead to missed opportunities and risks that could have been addressed more comprehensively and diversely.
So, what's the solution? It's simple.
Build a coalition of support: Instead of trying to convince the CEO or other top leaders, build a support team within the organization. This can include other employees, customers, and partners who are also aware of the potential impacts of disruption. By working together, you can create a groundswell of support that is harder for the top to ignore.
Show, don't tell: Instead of convincing people with words, try to show them with evidence. Gather data and examples of other companies that have successfully navigated similar disruptions. Use this evidence to illustrate the risks and opportunities involved and to make a compelling case for why your organization needs to be proactive in addressing these issues.
Align with organizational values: Finally, try to frame the disruption issue to align with the organization's values and priorities. For example, if the CEO is focused on growth and profitability, show how addressing these disruptions can create new opportunities and revenue streams. If the CEO is concerned about reputation and brand, explain how proactively addressing these disruptions can enhance the organization's reputation and set it apart from competitors.
In foresight, embracing uncertainty and recognizing that multiple scenarios can emerge are crucial. Rather than trying to convince others of a specific view, we should create an environment that promotes dialogue, diversity, and collaboration. This approach allows us to learn from each other, identify multiple scenarios, and develop adaptable and resilient strategies for various potential futures.
At the masterclass's end, Paula decided to take a different approach. Instead of convincing others, she would create an environment promoting dialogue, diversity, and collaboration. She recognized that multiple scenarios could emerge and that the best approach was to embrace uncertainty and learn from each other.
So Paula pinpointed a diverse group of colleagues, including those skeptical of foresight, and set about organizing discussions. Sometimes next to the water cooler, sometimes casually at the end of a meeting, and sometimes more formally.
She planned to encourage everyone to share their views and experiences, challenge assumptions, and explore multiple scenarios.
Why this Works
When we do this:
- Share ideas with a small but cognitively diversified group of people;
- Focusing on unique standpoints, not on shared views;
- And finding evidence for all perspectives, even when they seemingly contradict;
- To integrate these facts into an overarching vision;
We can identify how ignoring emerging disruption may lead to reputational and organizational risks.
Next, we can develop strategies to extend the time horizon of the leadership to include this longer-term information by tempting them to consider new and creative ways out.
Convincing vs. Tempting
When it comes to convincing and tempting, there is a difference in the force needed to achieve the desired outcome. Convincing often involves applying pressure to change someone's mind, while tempting involves creating a voluntary desire to join a particular bandwagon.
Convincing requires much effort and persuasion to convince someone to take a particular action. It often involves presenting facts, evidence, and logical arguments to support a specific view. However, convincing can sometimes be met with resistance and skepticism, especially if the person being convinced has a different perspective or vested interest in the status quo.
In contrast, tempting involves creating an emotional or psychological appeal that motivates someone to take a particular course of action voluntarily. It involves appealing to people's desires, values, or a sense of purpose. When people are tempted, they feel a sense of ownership and agency over their decisions, which can be more effective than being convinced to take action.
The effects of voluntarily joining the bandwagon can be more long-lasting than being convinced. When people feel they have made a choice voluntarily, they are more committed to seeing it through and may be more invested in its success. This can lead to a more sustainable and successful outcome than force or persuasion.
Three Examples of Temptation
Start small: Rather than pushing for a complete shift in thinking, start by suggesting minor changes that can be implemented in the short term. For example, suggest incorporating longer-term goals into performance evaluations or adding a section on future trends to regular meetings.
Use data: Whenever you have the opportunity, present data showing the benefits of taking a longer-term approach (regarding reputational risk). For example, use examples of competitors successfully implementing longer-term strategies and the positive outcomes they achieved.
Lead by example: Take the lead in thinking about the longer-term implications of decisions and demonstrating the benefits of doing so. By showing how taking a longer-term approach can be beneficial, others may be more likely to follow suit.
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