Psychologists have long told us that there are two independent ‘always-on’ sides of our brain. One is the emotional side, the second the rational side. New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt uses a lovely analogy to explain both. Haidt calls the emotional side the elephant, and the rational side the rider. The rider of the elephant looks like he or she is in charge, but in reality when there is a disagreement between the elephant and the rider on which path to take, the elephant usually wins.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s superb book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard builds on this analogy and talks about directing the rider (rational brain: responsible for planning and direction, but can get paralyzed over-thinking things), and motivating the elephant (emotional brain: prefers quick gratification over long term, but gets things done). Numerous experiments show that the rider can get exhausted trying to motivate the elephant, and needs time to recover. This is why, if you are trying to eat healthily while on the road, you tend to make bad choices at the end of a long day. Your ‘rider’ is tired after making decisions all day, and the ‘elephant’ says – let’s get that extra of beer, perhaps one more than the logical side of you would have wanted.

Direct the Rider

If you want to make sustainable, meaningful change, you have to get the elephant and the rider to happily go on the path together. First, direct the rider, who tends to over-analyze things. In the context of knowledge-sharing, perhaps the most paralyzing part is when people try to figure out how to measure effectiveness. In his book How to Measure Anything, Douglas Hubbard talks about a three-step clarification chain which helps you realize that just about anything important – even things that seem to be intangible – can be measured in some way.

  1. If it matters at all, it is detectable/observable.
  2. If it is detectable, it can be detected as an amount (or a range of possible amounts).
  3. If it can be detected as a range of possible amounts, it can be measured.

So if you are an executive trying to figure out if your knowledge-sharing pilot program is working, how about a simple test? Randomly survey customers who have gone through the traditional process for support as well as those who go through your knowledge-enhanced pilot process.

See what the outcomes are for each process – has Customer Satisfaction/Net Promoter Score/Customer Effort score improved? Has Employee Engagement improved? How about your team’s Productivity? Has the Time to Competency for a new employee reduced the way you expected? If you see good things happen, do more. If not, tweak the process and if the outcomes still don’t improve, try something else.

Advanced Tip: If you haven’t already, start work on aligning your measures with that of the business. See “Metrics, Measures, and Madness” for guidance.

Motivate the Elephant

Klever believes for knowledge-sharing to stick, people have to want to share information and it has to become part of how you do your job. We have just released a highly-regarded 30-minute, self-paced interactive online training module that addresses just this, from the perspective of a front-line support person.

Here’s where another powerful technique comes in: shaping the path. This means focusing on the surrounding environment to make change easier. (In one experiment, simply changing the size of popcorn containers in a movie theater changed how much the popcorn was eaten, even though the popcorn was *terrible* in both cases. Yes, the bigger the container, the more eaten. Shape the path.)

Lessons for Leaders

One of the best ways to direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path is to set meaningful metrics and develop a managerial style that allows people to “guide, not grade.” Let people understand What’s-in-it-for-Me and make it easy for them to capture, structure and re-use information every single interaction they have.

If you want to rapidly uncover where your organization is in terms of elephants, riders and the path and the impact it has on the success (or failure) of your knowledge-sharing program, ask us about the simple yet powerful Enterprise version of the Klever Assessment.

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