No matter what kind of public good goal we’re working towards, someone, somewhere will have to DO something they’re not doing now. That’s why every change project is really a human action project: someone has to act differently.
Yet we never really change other people. In truth, humans only ever change themselves. Sustained change is always about people acting on their own hopes and dreams and being energised by their own wells of motivation and enthusiasm.
Fortunately people always desire betterment for themselves and others – so motivation should rarely be a problem, provided we align our projects with people’s hopes.
What blocks change is rarely lack of motivation, it’s the fact that change is scary. And it’s our job as facilitators to make it safe. That’s a two sentence summary of the central idea in Changeology!
How do we do that?
First, help people progress their values: It’s vital not to try to persuade people, argue with them, or win them over with logic. Persuasion always feels like pressure, and pressure is the root cause of denial and resistance. Instead let’s trust that people already have intrinsic motivations we can work with: all parents want healthy happy children, all farmers want to care for their water and soil, all business people want make a difference to their worlds, all employees want to perform competently. Assuming that people are not motivated to do good is the first, gravest mistake that change makers can make: it’s why we end up with so many failed projects based on threats, rewards or persuasion.
Second, lower people’s anxieties. Change is scary and the biggest fears are social: what will my peers think of me? how will I avoid the risk of humiliation if I get it wrong? Those fears, in turn, are driven by unfamiliarity and lack of control. People need to feel certain they can ‘pull it off’ safety and successfully. Luckily there are numerous practical ways we can generate familiarity and hand people control over their process of change.
Third modify people’s environments so desirable actions are easier, safer, surer and more rewarding than undesirable actions. Shifting that balance is vital. This encourages us to think like designers and modify/create new services, processes, information flows, relationships and physical infrastructure. For example, we want people to be fit and healthy, we need provide parks and trails that are safe, beautiful and close by. Really, this is the most important change work of all.
Lastly, let’s have fun ourselves so we create projects that are exciting, playful, and inspiring so people notice them, buzz to others, and come and play. The spread of good vibrations from person to person is the real secret process behind change projects that take off.
These four ideas are the core of Changeology thinking. Interestingly, I find that there’s almost always a bit of unlearning to do: to be sceptical about our reflexive assumptions about ‘why those people should change’, and be genuinely curious about what it might, really, take for that to happen.
Of course, ideas are never enough. Process matters because this work can be complicated. We benefit greatly from having a logical step-by-step method that breaks project design into do-able tasks that mix technical rigor and creativity. That’s especially what we practice in the Changeology training.
Probably the most important skill is being a facilitator of teams, meetings, workshops and forums. Collecting a tool bag of facilitation tips and tricks, and practicing them whenever we can, will always make us better change makers.

About the next Changeology workshop

Dear colleagues,
The next Changeology project design hothouse, creativity camp and skills workshop is set for October.
There are just 15 places for keen professionals who want to create projects that change the behaviour of communities, groups, populations or teams.
“I feel like I’ve gone from zero to 90 in two days.”  – Manager, Strategic Communications, NSW state agency
When: Melbourne 17-18 October; Sydney 25-26 October
What: Participants bring along tricky environmental, social or health challenges. They leave with prototype projects ready for their first public outing. Changeology is a step-by-step rapid design methodology that generates a targeted behaviour change project that fits its audience, avoids denial and resistance, and uses creative and irresistible tactics with messages people can’t say ‘no’ to. It’s an enjoyable two days with a wonderful bunch of colleagues from diverse fields who turn out to have an amazing amount in common.
Each person takes away the 200 page Changeology manual. And, of course, the locations are beautiful and the food is delicious.
Warm regards
– Les
P.S. For facilitators, the popular one-day Facilitate with Confidence workshop is happening in the same week.