Want to Foster Change? Look for ‘Bright Spots’

Focusing on problems is a recipe for paralysis.

April 13, 2011
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What do you mean by ‘finding the bright spots’ to create change?

Psychology tells us we’re wired to look at the negative. When we want change, we tend to obsess about all the problems we’re having and we try to come up with solutions for them.

But, in times of change, there may be many things that aren’t working, so “problem focus” is a recipe for paralysis. Instead, we need to find the “bright spots,” the early signs that things are working, and clone them.

Let’s say you’re putting into place a new process at work and it has had mixed success. Don’t get caught up agonizing about the places where it’s not working. Instead, reverse-engineer the places where it is working so you can clone those circumstances.

Or if you have a troubled relationship with your teenager, ask yourself, when was the last time we had a really healthy interaction? What was different about that moment? If you understand what conditions made your bright spots possible, you can reproduce them.

Dan Heath is the co-author of "Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard."

He’ll bring his insights about change to the America’s Credit Union Conference in San Antonio, June 19-22.

Stay tuned: In part two of this interview, Heath will explain how to “shape the path” for change—and describe a personal lesson he has learned about the power of the environment.

Ignorance is bliss - Or is it?

Serge Milman
April 13, 2011 3:40 pm
This is an interesting take on how to improve performance, but I am unclear how defocusing from the challenge areas will ever result in improvement. I am not one who believes in 'Ignorance is bliss' nor have I ever heard of circumstances where this approach has ever resulted in improved performance. Imagine telling a member that you are very sorry that they are having a problem with bill payment but that you are very pleased with the fact that your check deposit system is flawless. I just don't think this would resonate well. Dan Heath is right in that it is important to have the right perspective of the various challenges within their own context, to reward success, and to avoid 'paralysis by analysis'. However, this does not mean defocusing on problem areas. My experience as a consultant tells me that only by focusing on problem areas and finding ways to improve the overall system are the only mechanisms for greater process simplicity, improved customer experience, faster growth and more robust profitability.

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