Going the Last Mile

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MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” winner, Sendhil Mullainathan, uses behavioral economics to show us that convincing people to change behavior is about much more than giving people data and information.  His work examining the topic of persuasion has made a remarkable impact examining some critical social challenges in India and around the world.

In the corporate sector we, too, think that once we identify the technical solution, the rest will fall into place.  But as Sendhil recommends, that’s when we need to “go the last mile” to solve the human problem if we want to make a lasting impact.

When organizations undertake change, they put most of their effort–the first 99 miles–into the “science” connected to the change.  In outsourcing, for example, just think of the resources burned in the technical and financial analysis, vendor selection and due diligence phases.  How much of that time is spent analyzing, preparing for and managing the human component?  At best, very little. Yet, if you examine the reasons why those change initiatives struggle, it’s virtually ALL about the human component.  The same holds true for mergers, process improvement efforts, restructuring, and even less complex forms of change.

The technical component is important and is often the very reason why we are making the change.  But by investing incrementally more of our time, attention and resources in the human component, we have a remarkable opportunity to make a world of difference in our initiatives.


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