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Bright Spots and Butterflies

July 11, 2014 | By John Donlon

If your organization is facing change, are the bright spots clear? Is it obvious what behaviors will thrive going forward?

I’ve got a longish commute these days, and as a result, I’ve become hooked on audiobooks and podcasts. I don’t listen to them every time I get in the car – sometimes I simply need the mindless banter of sports talk radio – but on the way to work, when I’m getting revved up for the day, I usually like to listen to learn something new.

On the plane ride back from SiriusDecisions Summit 2014 in May, I had a chance to reflect on Summit’s theme of transformation and its connection to two concepts I recently discovered – one from an audiobook and one from a podcast.

Bright Spots and Butterflies

The first is the idea of bright spots, which comes from the book Switch by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. The book describes why it’s so hard to enact change and offers some strategies for making it happen. One of those strategies is to “look for the bright spots” – the places where people have embraced the change or are already performing at a high level, and emulate not only how they do what they do, but the conditions in which they’re doing it.

The second comes from a Radiolab podcast titled Black Box. In this episode, the hosts discuss different ways that change occurs, somewhat mysteriously. We know what goes in and what comes out, but what happens in between to trigger a transformation? The example used in the podcast that caught my attention was that of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. During the metamorphosis that occurs in the chrysalis, the caterpillar disintegrates before being rebuilt into the butterfly. Wait, it doesn’t just grow wings? Nope. Weird, I know. It turns out that, even before it begins to pupate, the caterpillar has begun to grow legs, antennae and wings. Somehow it keeps these parts separate from the dissolved goo of its old self, and they survive the transformation intact.

To me, these two ideas represent insightful ways of “painting the vision” while going through change: Seek external examples of what “good” looks like, and mimic them, looking within to find the parts of you that will blossom in the new environment.

If your organization is facing change, are the bright spots clear? Is it obvious what behaviors will thrive going forward? Share your experiences below – good and bad – on transformations you’ve been through. Which catalysts have pulled people through to the changed environment or impeded the transformation?

John Donlon

John Donlon is a Senior Research Director for Marketing Operations at SiriusDecisions. A recognized thought leader in marketing operations, he has over 20 years of experience in information technology, process improvement, and measurement and reporting. Follow John on Twitter at @SiriusJD.

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