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Nick Stace, CEO, RCVS reflects on day 2 of Reconnect II – changing your behaviour

How to change behaviour dominated discussion on day two of Reconnect II with real time challenges from the world of drink, FMCG and the BBC.

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Henry Ford once said, whether you think you can do it or not, you are probably right. We all know that our own belief and behaviour is central to any success we may or may not have; we also know that true success is dependent on persuading others. Day two was all about moving from wow to how and I picked up some useful tips along the way.

The magic of Wavelength’s Connect is about bringing together an eclectic mix of people from diverse organisations and backgrounds from across the world, driving them into the middle of a sheep farm and not allowing them to leave before they have been drained of every good idea they have ever had! So first up was a former member of the behavioural insights team at the Cabinet Office, Henry Ashworth. Henry took the theory he developed for Government around the mnemonic MINDSPACE, and talked about how he has applied it to responsible drinking at the drinks industry forum, the Portman Group.

Henry’s top tip – there are no neutral choices in life, everything is framed and it’s your job to shape that process.

Next up was Rob Burnett who has spent 20 years in Kenya with the last five unleashing Shujaaz, which has become an extraordinary phenomenon. Shujaaz is a comic and FM radio station that reaches 69 per cent of Kenya’s 18-24 year olds and in the process influences behaviour from encouraging entrepreneurialism to reconnecting young people with the political process and civic life.

Rob’s top tip – you have to be relevant to your audience, which for 18-24 year olds means you need to talk about money and sex if you want to stand a chance of getting other messages across.

Sue Garrett from Unilever talked about her task of convincing 175,000 employees worldwide that Unilever’s ambitious and game changing Sustainability Living Plan is worth believing in and delivering upon.

Sue’s top tip – bake it into the business plan because it will only happen if it is on everyone’s agenda.

And Andy Parfitt former controller of BBC Radio 1 described the process he went through to reconnect with Britain’s young people and lift viewing figures at the same time. When Andy took over at Radio 1 viewing figures had fallen below the psychologically important 10m mark and Radio 1 no longer appeared to be cool among the youth. At the end of Andy’s tenure viewing figures were over 11.5m.

Andy’s top tip – be more ambitious with your goals than you first think is possible because it will stretch you to achieve even more.

In addition to suggesting you read and digest MINDSPACE, I also picked up a few other top tips that you may find helpful in changing behaviour:

  1. Leaders need to evangelise – remember enthusiasm is contagious
  2. Be sure to describe a compelling end story – and identify great stories along the way
  3. Pace and momentum matter – it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission
  4. Ignore your cynics – cynics will melt away in the end but along the way they can drain energy if you focus on them
  5. Look after yourself – three nights of five hours or less sleep means you’re operating like you are under the influence of alcohol. And energy trumps time, time is finite but you are in control of your energy.

Leaders needs followers, good ideas need supporters, thinking about how you can take people with you is an art and a science. To be successful in achieving change it needs to be the relentless endeavor of all of us, but for many of us it is often little more than an afterthought.

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