Danvers Fleurry at TalentedApp reminded me last week that behavioral change is almost always a function of courage. We don’t change our personal or professional behaviors, even if we cognitively know we want to, unless we have the courage to walk over that bridge.
Where do we find that courage? Major sources, and probably increasingly powerful in our era of social networks and media, are the forces of social proof and social herding.
- Social proof is the influence of actions and beliefs of those around us. We see that others are comfortable or excited about a change, and that gives us the courage to do what they are doing.
- Social herding is the tendency of humans to follow the lead of others. Humans tend to be herd animals. There is nothing wrong with this; herds are remarkably effective social constructs.
I had not used these terms in the past, but I see that this is exactly what takes place when I help a community of teachers to build a comfort and capacity for change. At first, most of the faculty and administrators will say, “let’s take it slow; we don’t know how to do that; we aren’t positive it is the right thing to do.” They are fearful of making a wrong change, because the downside of risk-taking in schools has always been greater than the upside.
But when we get a large group together, and they see that those around them WANT to change (proof), and that some are already leading the way (herding), the majority acquire that courage to change their own practice or behavior. This is the exact opposite of change that is mandated by the school “leader”, who might leave for a new job next year.
Create those conditions, and big changes can occur much faster than you might think!
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