|Disgust Makes People More|
Receptive to the New
|51% of people who viewed disgusting images from the filmTrainspotting were willing to trade away a closed box of office supplies for a new one, compared with just 32% of people who weren't exposed to the repellent images, say Seunghee Han of Chung-Ang University in South Korea and Jennifer Lerner and Richard Zeckhauser of Harvard. Incidental feelings of disgust thus appear to disrupt the deeply held "status quo bias" that leads people to favor what they already have over something new, the researchers say.|
The experiment is kind of comical, but it makes an interesting point. It's a point that I think Jamie Flinchbaugh (@flinchbaugh) also makes very eloquently in his book The Hitchhiker's Guide to Lean: Lessons from the Road. In it he says that there are 3 things you need to overcome resistance to change: hatred of the current situation, a vision for the future, and the courage to take the first steps. In my own work I've found that it is critically important for people to recognize the need for change. Call it "disgust". Call it "hatred". Call it whatever you want, but if people don't have fairly strong negative emotions toward their present state then they are unlikely to work very hard to change it, no matter how intellectually committed they may be to improvement.
Karen Martin (@karenmartinopex) had a great webinar on problem solving a couple weeks ago in which she talked about how dumb it is to refer to problems as "opportunities". If you want people to act, then problems must be seen as ugly things that must be eradicated. People are a lot more likely to attack a problem than to take advantage of an opportunity. Of course motivation is only the start, but without it even the most finely honed problem-solving skills can be wasted.
For an interesting counterpoint to this argument you can read the great book by Chip and Dan Heath, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. In chapter 5 they talk about the "burning platform" and how negative emotions only get you so far. Still, I think they are an essential catalyst for priming the engine of change.