The nuances of change

Bill Gates has a fantastic blog/site over at https://www.gatesnotes.com. If you don’t already read it, I recommend you do.

I’ve been looking at the relationship between personal/emotional challenge and the connection with innovation. This recent article at Gates Notes appeared for me at a key time: Memorizing these three statistics will help you understand the world

Particularly this quote, relating to the statistic that child mortality has fallen from 20 million a year (1960) to 5.6 million a year now.

When someone says we can sit back and relax because the world is in a much better place, I point out that 11 children are still dying every minute. We cannot accept the world as it is today. And when I feel hopeless in the face of this tragedy, I remember that we reduced annual child deaths from 20 million to 5.6 million in the last fifty years.

What I like is not about the achievement, or the challenge ahead. Instead, it also illustrates how our actual tasks, and indeed – the story, lies in between the extremes – there’s a lot more nuance to the challenge of reducing child mortality than the vision of a number and a year. It’s the initial steps, the questions and refusals to accept the totality, that ‘turn the dial’.

This is a good study (requires login) of how small changes of individual opinion can swing (and the article that led me there) the whole. This study identifies a 25% tipping point, while others have identified as low as 10% tipping point to sway opinion. That’s not much, especially when it starts with small steps and small innovations. These work best when embracing questions and challenge.

I’ve always loved questions from people I work with (whether part of my team, or someone I’m trying to influence and help change), especially when it’s a why question. “Why do we need to change?” is a great (and often worthwhile) challenge to a manager, and can yield amazing lightbulb moments and subsequently advocacy if managed with integrity and collaboration.

Influence through knowledge and empowerment are more effective than cynical obedience. For me, it displays the innate desire for people to tell their own stories, whether they call it a ‘story’ or not.

That is an amazing thing to me – the uncovering of the individualised and shared stories in between, that help us navigate change and respond to challenge.

A good time to drop this in, to close out these thoughts:

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