Performance Consulting

Redirect – The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change

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How often have you tried to change the bad behaviour of those you work with or for you? Was there a time you wanted to help someone get over a rocky period in their lives but found that your approach fell flat, despite your best intentions? The author of Redirect claims that best intentions and common sense approaches often produce negative results in the realm of creating real change.

This is not your typical leadership book, its bonds to the corporate universe are only implicit. It reveals professional insight in a more indirect way than what most of us are used to.

Its thesis is deceptively simple:  the most effective way to drive significant, lasting change, is to integrate new events into compelling personal narratives, through the help of writing down your interpretation of events (which the author calls “the story editing approach”).  It manages to avoid the pitfalls of arguing in favour of such a seemingly simplistic theory with thorough analysis, and a swift, persuasive delivery of the message. It’s like the author anticipates all possible retorts a skeptical reader might have, and proceeds to tear them down in advance. This is the book’s strongest and weakest point – the author is so passionate about his subject matter that the text feels preachy in parts.

It starts with a plea to raise the bar when it comes to scientific experimentation and to always question results and approaches that seem like common sense. More often than not, they are hurting our lives and our organizations. Instructional videos or presentations for accepting cultural diversity, outlining and distributing “how-to” messages for driving awareness sound like reasonable(or at least harmless) ways to inflict a positive shift. They are not, and the author is clear enough as to why. I won’t ruin it for you, since the demonstrations inside are extremely compelling. This is the book that made me very weary of the “do this to achieve that” management articles.

It goes on to demonstrate the effectiveness of the story editing approach in such situations as preventing teen pregnancy, fighting drug and alcohol abuse and countering racism. These examples may prove off-putting for the casual business reader, but to me this was the main appeal of this book: to translate them into the realities of an organization. It’s a stimulating mental exercise to think about how some of these techniques can be applied to things like building a culture of continuous feedback, coaching people through transformations and conceptualizing truly effective employee onboarding activities.

The bottom line becomes this: instead of preaching, showing explicitly or making threats in order to change behaviours, try instilling valid re-interpretations of your or other people’s self-images. Maybe next time you deal with a new employee that has trouble catching up with all the information, give them an example of how difficult it was for others to start as well before that person enters a cycle of self-defeating thoughts.

For me, the most compelling part of the book (because it was so easily translatable to the Human Resources function) was the one about social norms. Harnessing the effects of peer pressure and peer analysis is explained in a very simple, elegant and straightforward manner and conveys a wealth of ideas around debunking “that’s how everybody does it”-type myths in the organization.

Whether you will be sold on the “story editing approach” should not by any means impact your enjoyment of this book or of the wide range of other lessons inside. It’s sociology and psychology explained simply, yet argumented scientifically.

It’s all about the way we integrate what happens to us within the image we have of ourselves.

This work is an interpretation of the book by the writer. It is not paid for and the writer has no association with the author and\or the publisher of the book. Prashna Performance Consulting is not responsible for any copyright issues related to this content.

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Victor Preda

About

“Victor Preda is a young Human Resources professional currently working in a MNC in Romania. His passion for people processes saw him transition in to a full time HR role after investing 5 years into business consulting in the Sales Performance Management domain. Victor has a degree in Economics and a Masters in HR. His areas of interest include Talent Management, Organisational Development and Organisational & Behavioral Psychology.”

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