Here’s A Wild Idea: Make It Worse To Make It Better

Something I sometimes see with my clients is a leadership team that want to catalyse positive change but who are struggling with a staff base that are just chugging along. Not highly motivated, nor in the depths of despair – but simply ‘just getting by’.

Any attempts to get this group to improve are met with a nonchalant “meh”.

This is a group that is stuck in the ‘region-beta paradox’.

To visualise the region-beta paradox, imagine you live in the inner city. Any destination within a km of your home – you walk there. And any destination greater than a km from your home – you ride your bike.

The paradox is that because the bike is faster than walking – you will reach some destinations that are further away faster than some destinations that are closer (because you walked to those ones).

This overlapping distance/time contrast area is ‘region-beta’.

For this group of people stuck in ‘meh’ – you could say they’re stuck in ‘region-beta’.

Or to put it another way – things simply just aren’t hard enough to warrant fixing. (The equivalent of walking to a destination 900m away).

There’s a reason why climate activists focus on fear and impending doom – it catalyses action. The same way that you may live with a dripping tap for months, but will happily pay exorbitant ‘urgent call out’ fees to a plumber when your toilet overflows.

What negative areas need to be brought into the light in order to show how bad things truly are (and accordingly catalyse the change you’re looking for?)

Something To Ponder: Unexpected Generosity

Continuing on the theme of catalysing action, here’s something else to consider.

Earlier in the week I jumped on a virtual call with a peer in London. Through our discussion I ended up offering her some advice on a program she was about to run. It was a light hearted, easy conversation that was filled with laughter.

A positive experience all round. And that was that, or so I thought…

Then yesterday I received a knock on my office door. A mysterious box had been delivered. A box that when opened had this inside:

This person from halfway across the world had gone above and beyond and had organised for a selection of ciders to be delivered to me – and it made my day! Not only that, but it had me thinking about how amazing and powerful a small act of unexpected generosity can be.

Unexpected generosity does 3 very useful things:

  1. It makes someone feel valued,
  2. It gives people something to talk about (i.e. “hey check this out!”), and
  3. It creates a lasting impact on the receiver.

And that leaves me to ponder:

Could a few small acts of unexpected generosity spark change in your teams?

The large caveat here is that it needs to be genuine and not feel contrived. A contrived, generic gift is often worse than nothing at all.

(PS. shout-out to Katherine Bryant for the gift!)