We're evolutionarily hard-wired to distrust the unfamiliar, given its potential risk to us. Though this also holds us back from exploring new, better realities, there are Nuggets that help navigate it...
Even a small amount of control can reduce discomfort for an uncertain future. This is the case even when the control is illusory.
How might you provide autonomy over the situation that’s causing uncertainty?
In what ways can you provide it? Remember that whatever choices are presented are still your choices. You are the architect of their sense of control.
We naturally follow others, especially in unfamiliar situations. This is even more the case with an identifiable and / or aspirational group.
In your scenario, who is this group?
Why would they be effective?
How can you highlight their prior collective choices to reduce change aversion?
Those in control or whom we look up to can provide reassuring guidance in uncertain times.
How can you use respected role models to do this?
Who might they be?
What messages might reassure their followers?
Too much choice can overwhelm, but a little choice allows for consistent certainty around differing tastes. This is especially the case for ranges that change frequently. An example would be a coffee subscription service with three constant flavour profiles: Delicate, Classic and Wild. Products rotate monthly within these distinct categories.
Where can you use choice to allow for a small set of preferences, creating a sense of familiarity and understanding?
Unfamiliar, hard-to-understand concepts will always trigger uncertainty.
What are the key messages you want to land?
How can you simplify their messaging to ease cognitive processing and increase familiarity? Doing so will make a message on a proposed change understandable, more agreeable and more likely to be spread internally.
Giving people a low-risk taster is a great way to test out the new without fear.
What are people most afraid of?
What is most unfamilar to them?
Where are you asking a lot from people?
Where therefore can you provide opportunities to get started with something small that overcomes these barriers?
When we don’t know what to choose, we look for guidance. Defaults offer a great, low-cost way to navigate the new. For times of change, ensure your Defaults are used to create a reassuring path forward instead of something aggressive that could trigger Reactance.
Where can you guide people, especially with what is most popular, easy and fast?
We can decrease discomfort for change by slowly exposing ourselves to it. When designing change for others, it's better assume a lack of initial familiarity as your baseline.
How can you use a strategy of incremental exposure over time to what is coming? How might you break this down into multiple stages, starting initially with a light amount of information, moving through to more detailed and pragmatic communications. Consider adding in opportunities for the participant to engage with or test out these new changes as exposure and therefore familiarity increases.
Change can be scary if we can't understand what it is or why it's happening. As change-makers, metaphors offer us a great opportunity to use peoples' existing knowledge to ground the change in something they're already familiar with.
This is especially the case for any large or confusing changes, such as using a new technology that changes processes or revolutionises products. Steve Jobs remarked in 1981 that "a computer is a bicycle for the mind".
How can you wrap up forthcoming changes in something people can relate to? What positive, empowering analogies can you provide? In a new age of NFTs, cryptocurrency networks and digital abstraction, this has never been more important.
How you communicate change is just as important as change itself. Dynamic Norms provide a powerful new tool to make the most of any progress made with your change strategy.
The crucial thing here is to emphasise the rate of relative instead of absolute change, in order to compel people to "join the growing movement". For example, absolute adoption may be low, say 5%, but relative adoption is doubling each month!
What measure can you use during your change process as the basis of a Dynamic Norm to boost adoption of the new normal? How can this framing evolve as adoption increases?
Reimagining change as a special invitation to try something new is a powerful way to get it started. People love being given something exclusive and scarce.
Who might these people be in your situation? A tech-friendly or risk-tolerant cohort or a group of highly passionate VIP customers. Done well, they will provide lubrication for the rest of your rollout with Social Proof, Status and a powerful new Dynamic Norm for exciting change ahead.
If we're more likely to take action when it's bundled with something pleasant, how might you use this as part of a change strategy.
"Look, there's a small amount of personal effort or retraining involved, but it will unlock [x], something that we've never been able to do before. It'll also mean you can do more [y] and free you entirely from doing [z]."
What change benefits can you present to people to temptation-bundle with the hard or boring stuff to motivate change on their part?
If we're compelled to complete unfinished tasks, getting people started on a given change will help improve compliance.
Start by identifying the barriers that could stop people from taking initial action. How might you design your strategy with these in mind? E.g if time was scarce, then providing a pre-filled form with default choices and a single "click to confirm" button could help.
How can you make it incredibly easy for people to get started with a change you're implementing by doing even a small amount of the work for them to get the process under way?
When it's not clear of the value of a proposed change, people won't take action to make it so. Reminding people of the high-level reasons for the change, both for the organisation and for them as individuals will create that clarity. Going further, appeal to peoples' group identity, communicating how this change will allow the organisation to better compete with [competitor x] and become #1, for example.
Where can you be more clear with people about the ultimate reason for this change? How can you make it aspirational and energising, connecting their actions today with an exciting future tomorrow?
Over time, Feedback Loops become a type of story, offering a narrative on progress made. For those subject to any change made, we often forget the value of communicating how this process is going.
If we can see the change taking place, and are informed as to its progress, we'll be much more likely to affect it somehow, by taking action or compelling others to do so.
Where might you provide powerful feedback as to the progress of a change strategy that they're a part of? How might you make it easy for them to spread this news to others who've not yet done their bit?