The authors pulled from studies conducted over decades in psychology, sociology and other fields to shed light on how we can make successful changes. The power of many of the studies and observations is how counter-intuitive they appear. Thus, explaining why change is so hard -- we are not programed for it and our well-meaning "gut instincts" are often at 180 degree odds of sustaining the change we seek.
While I am most fascinated with change in a community and societal context, the examples here, which also include individual and organizational levels, are very helpful and instructive. I think this is because, as the authors stress, "when change works, it tends to follow a pattern. The people who change have clear direction, ample motivation and a supportive environment." This aligns very directly with the best practices we present to communities and discussed in our book: "Community Visions, Community Solutions."
Well, if there's a pattern to follow, why don't we? The basic problem is that "the brain has two independent systems at work at all times," the authors explain. "First, there's what we call the emotional side. It's the part of you that is instinctive, that feels pain and pleasure. Second, there's the rational side, also known as the reflective or conscious system. It's the part of you that deliberates and analyzes and looks into the future." In essence, the rational mind wants change and the emotional mind wants comfort. But don't let the terms fool you ... oftentimes we have seen the rational mind of a businessman in a community gathering embrace the emotional comfort of "lets just do something" rather than invest the process time to draw a clear, rational, path to the solution.
One concept, which the authors present, has fundamental implications, especially in communities, for all three elements of change: clear direction; motivation and environmental supports. They call it Fundamental Attribution Error -- a deep-rooted tendency to attribute people's behavior to "the way they are rather than the situation they are in." This gives rise in community to a whole set of broad-brush dysfunctions: blame, "those people," claims of lack of personal responsibility, etc. For example, we have seen children from the lowest socio-economic strata, who for years were thought of as "those kids" who will never make it, perform equal to their counterparts when the community's expectation changed. We have seen in the communities we have worked with, over time, a desire to know what they didn't know. When they see that so much of our failure in communities is situational and not "those people," they see that in fact they have power over the situations their community has created. And that is the SWITCH.
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