When we talk about the practicalities around massive change of human behavior we enter a very intering field of STIR research. Especially when we deal with the type of change needed to achieve sustainable human progress within sustainocratic processes. My own strong belief was always that people first need to become aware of the challenges we face before they take initiative. This is the way I got active in this field myself, only after opening my eyes into a new kind of visual dimension of awareness. This awareness may not be enough yet to get everyone to change attitude but certainly places a trigger under the surface that can be pushed any time by anything.
My views were overthrown when I invited J. J is professor at the technical university. J. and his team do research on “perception” from scientific point of view. He wants to know the effects of professional electronics on people and their behavior. I invited him to share his opinion and expertise in the sustainocratic teams of AiREAS. We were making an action plan for public involvement at city quarter level in our “clean and healthy city” project. His scientific expertise could become useful to avoid inventing the wheel (with a lot of costs) and become more effective as a group. That is one of the key arguments to get scientific knowledge directly at the table in the first place. At the same time science could be interested in the practical initiatives of AiREAS to formulate new research questions and gain support of the other participants..
During the multidisciplinary discussion the participating lady from our public healthcare organization stated her frustration that, after spending lots of public money on health campaigns no measurable change had been perceived or achieved. I added to that my own findings that awareness is simply not enough. Prior to changing attitude the people need to become aware AND assume responsibility. Lots of people are aware that smoking kills yet continue smoking. Same goes with people taking the car, knowing that the bike would be healthier for the short distance. Awareness alone is not enough. My own model shows the following steps:
Awareness -> Acceptance of responsibility -> Change of behavior -> Recognition
This places a large responsibility on communication with a challenge to get a feel on how to stimulate each of the steps.
Everyone agreed except J. He said simply “Awareness? No! No awareness at all”. This caught us all by surprise. He explained a recent example, that a lot of communication had been done to get people to acquire solar panels. No one did. Until a bunch of neighbors got their own act together and placed panels on their roofs. Suddenly everyone else wanted them in the same street. Why not after communication? Does communication not work anymore? Why does the physical appearance trigger people and not reading about it with all the posible arguments on climate change, financial benefits, etc? What does that tell us?
Me2 or Me1!
For me it was funny because I use this expression for business enterprises when lecturing, training or coaching about “positioning”. But business is an entrepreneurial exercise in which market leadership (Me1 – me first) or being a follower (Me2 – me second) is a strategic entrepreneurial decision and awareness exercise. In fact it is one of the five keys of 21st century excellence that I published as my 5K multidimensional entrepreneurial model. But in my mind I had not made the link with the diversity of general human behavior in society. J. had just opened my eyes. This is how it works.
In a group of 100 people you roughly find this division of characters 10-80-10. Whatever changes you propose with some common sense you will always find 10% of the people opposing directly, no matter what. They are against everything. These are the “opposers”, the brakes on progress. On the other hand there is a 10% that is always in favor. They are the “innovators” of the group, the front runners, the Me1. This 10% is always in for something knew and is willing to pay the extra price to be innovative. For some it is even a sport to be the first in everthing. In business these are normally the business leaders that take the chances to do things that others have never done. They create new values. Then there is the remaining 80%. They just observe and listen to the others, they do not take risks. Normally they tend to listen to the 10% opposers who always claim to have the truth because “it was tried before”, “no one ever succeeded”, “its a waste of time and money”, “it does not work”, “no change, no risk”, etc.
When the Me1 in a quarter unite and show their initiative in public a part of the 80% will become a Me2, a group of followers. They overcome their fear and join the leaders of change. More join in when the novelty proves stable and adequate. The Me1 only manage silence the opposers through action, demonstrating that something indeed can be done. When introducing novelties or change most communicative energy always tends to go to the opposers who we try to convince of progress. This is also caused by the fact that the opposers put a lot of energy in blocking progress through their lobby using fear. The above shows that we should not even pay attention to them when we initiate sustainocratic processes that have already a strong reason to be introduced. To neglect this group is difficult because they tend to be the ones that go to meetings first, not the Me1.
In business the Me2 often position themselves to copy proven technology rapidly after its introduction by the Me1. While Me1 gets the recognition for the orginal idea, the Me2 make it accessible to the general public by making it cheaper, “better”, etc. The Me2 attention to a product is often good for the Me1 too. If the image of innovator is maintained, people who are Me1 will become loyal to the label because of its status as leader. Others however never buy from the leader because they know that price of a Me2 will be lower. It is all a game of psychology.
From our point of view all this helps to experiment with public initiatives and the introduction of all kinds of innovations. From a hardware point of view this can be understood, especially when dealing with city quarters with wealthy enough residents to follow certain trends and hypes that we try to introduce. But we want to transform society from a centralized to a circular local type of economy. This does not imply just external visuals around status an “look at me” Me1 attitudes. We work on getting people to become involved in their own local sustainable progress which is of not money driven. How would we make these good examples visible to achieve in depth mentality and cultural change? It opens up still more questions than answers that need to be researched:
- When do Me2 decide to follow Me1?
- What size of Me1 and Me2 do we need to get everyone or a majority to change?
- How do we reach the Me1? Who are they? What triggers them?
- We know about the Me1 psychology of wealth and luxury. Does it work too in the area of getting jobless people to become active in any way? Or youngsters who we want to get out of criminality or drugs and join certain wellness programs? When does it work and when not?
- What if the quarter is multi-ethnical, multi-cultural? What are cultural differences in all this and how do different cultures interact?
- How much awareness does it take an Me1 to take responsibility? Is it what we are saying (our prejudism?) in our communication strategy or is something else the trigger?
- Can the findings in one city quarter be applied 1 to 1 on another? Is there some kind of blueprint that we can develop and where is it valid?
- Who should do the innovative proposition for Me1? A business label? A government? AiREAS?
- What effects have external impulses s.a. a crisis on all this?
The entire “living lab” situation around sustainable progress driven manipulation, because that is what it is of course, is tremendously interesting. At the same time it is very much needed to get people to assume a different role in society than today. We are still heading for disaster if we do not change drastically our course. Institutionally I manage to get cooperative coalitions but getting 100’s of thousands of people with a daily job, a particular view of their own world (also manipulated of course) and a dependency of the system, is unique.
Huge multinationals are showing interest to try products, technological innovations through our platform. That is great of course, especially when they come with some money too for our research and main program: the local human being. So from a human behavior point of view both awareness and not awareness are applicable but in a certain order and under particular conditions that we need to find out. We do this of course not just with institutions and scientists but with the public itself too. They are the guinea pigs of their own transformation, which we develop transparently with their complete involvement. It will be very interesting to see what we find out when we deal with many of such projects around the world and do research by comparing the results.
We still have a lot of work to do to understand human behavior more. One would think that sustainable human progress is easy “to sell” to people. It is not.