Changing how (parts of) society thinks

How can we change how society thinks? We can take the radical path, promoting radically different ideas, demand changes, impose different laws, force change on society but that often does not work.It often alientates even more. If society or the pockets of society most affected by the change don’t accept it, it becomes hard to make the lasting changes needed. There must be better, more subtle ways to make change.

Firstly ideas for change need to be widely understood, not by long lectures, short bursts of campaigning but by clear demonstration, actual proof that it does works, not will work. The more we can demonstrate an idea or that a concept works, the more it becomes ‘real’ and has the growing likelihood of it being taken up by others, ultimately the idea simply becomes part of the ‘common sense’, the common purpose, we all seek.

To achieve change when parts of society might have ‘fallen out of the mainstream’ needs lots of hard work. Inclusion, for instance, needs reinterpretation, it needs articulating repeatedly, it needs to find ‘traction’, to tap into effective demand and been seen as meeting this demand. It means different things to different people and needs constant translation.

A rough, tough and messy path

Often the route to success is rough, tough and messy and needing consistent adapting as you go and learn. To draw people back into the broader community you will need to provide them a connection, their connection, a script of where you can demonstrate a model of behaviour change that is seen as a better alternative than what they currently employ as their present behaviour. But you have to offer the actual alternative not just dangle it as the carrot; otherwise it is simply no more than the possible alternative to the stick and for many, dangling ‘something’ is a non-event, simply a waste of time.

Certain ways of thinking in marginal societies is their dominant thinking; it often clashes with mainstream thinking. Reinterpretation often through argument, engagement, in demonstrating success builds these success scripts and can gain the eventual commitment to make a change. It can lead to drawing groups back in. They see it perhaps differently initially but the more you make their links, their interpretation of why they should change, and can demonstrate what it provides, the better chances you have of changing how someone currently thinks and acts, they can see an alternative.

The power of ideas that touch peoples lives

Where we start to engage is through the power of ideas that can touch many people’s lives. Eventually through witnessing a change they see as valuable in their values they interpret it as a powerful incentive to change. It is a slow process but it has a higher chance of lasting success than forcing something onto someone really reluctantly, that is sensing alienated by the majority outside their immediate group.

Every innovation or idea should benefit from the recognition of a burning need, not just of society but of the individual who is feeling trapped outside the mainstream. As I suggest it is often a messy, rough and tough road. It is how we learn to reinterpret this consistently to each person feeling that feels left outside will help spread it more, so the solution becomes more of the connected idea that eventually leads to greater individual acceptance, and eventual societal change. Slower perhaps but potentially more lasting but through one interaction, followed by another one, at a time.


About paul4innovating

I research innovation and provide insights & advice to individuals, teams, and organizations
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