Hard to change

Posted by on Oct 24, 2006 in Uncategorized | No Comments

I loved this fantastically overspecified rule book from Knox Grammar School in NSW:http://www.knox.nsw.edu.au/current/sport/behaviourcode.html (pic below). What a wierd thing to post on a school website.

But it shows another really important reason why it’s important to exercise your grey cells over the fundamental stuff like Herd Theory.

The truth is most attempts to change mass behaviour fail

– Most government social policy initiatives fail to show anything but a minute short-term change (and even then they have to be inventive with the data to support it).

– Most marketing programmes fail to bring about any long-term changes in consumer behaviour. (Prof Andrew Ehrenberg even suggests we should see “keeping things the same” as a good result…)

– Most M&A activity actually reduces shareholder value (the promised “synergies” don’t happen because most companies are very bad at changing their own staff’s behaviour let alone the disgruntled staff of a newly acquired company).

But business is all about mass behaviour. So is government. Not opinions, or attitudes or clusters or polls, Service Level agreements or anything else.

Apart from the cock-up factor – even the best of companies do less than brilliant things sometimes or do things less than brilliantly – the biggest reason why our attempts to change mass behaviour is that our underlying ideas (or “models”) of mass behaviour don’t accord with the facts.

So what are the facts?

Do individuals decide things (even largely) on their own (like we in the west assume)? Or is the old childhood excuse closer to the truth – “bigger boys made me do it, honest….”

Now seems a good time to think about these things.

Because it’s not getting any easier to bring about changes in mass-behaviour. In government, business or marketing.

And it’s not good enough to say that the internet (or e-numbers) are to blame.

What do you think?

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