Change Management through Nostalgia

To effectively manage change, we must know what we want people to feel.

Watch the 90 second video intro by Apple at WWDC 2013. “What do we want people to feel? Delight. Surprise. Love. Connection. Then we begin to craft around our intention.”

Making something “stick” requires more than simply throwing everything at them and hoping something lands. It’s not about forcing someone to follow you.

Now watch this scene in a finale of the tv show, Mad Men. Here, two Kodak executives want Don Draper to focus the advertising on the latest feature: the wheel. They want to show the specs, the engineering, the cleverness of their invention. Instead, Don’s pitch shows them how they can use emotion to inspire Kodak’s customers.

Nostalgia. It creates a sentimental bond with the product, service, or idea. It takes us to place where we ache to go again. Take a moment and watch the scene again.

As the world becomes faster and more complex, people may have the allure of going even faster and being even more sophisticated. We sell the ability to process more data, store more memories, analyze more insights. We build systems that mimic circuit boards and production factories. We squeeze out every ounce of efficiency and output. We measure everything. In doing so, we have become machines.

We ask our employees to do more, never stopping to rest. A wasted movement is a hit to the bottom line.

We ask them to change. We tell them that change is required to survive in this new world. They have no choice. They must comply.

Instead, perhaps we can use nostalgia as a motivator. We can take people back in time, to a time where they were once treated as humans. To a time where conversation, relationship, philosophy and debate were valued. To a time when not every hour and minute was accounted for with tasks, actions, and goals.

The next time we build a new system, think about the human component. Think about how we want our customers to feel, how they should be treated. Humanize the human aspect and automate the machine aspects.