Unassailable facts. Change advocates must make sure the evidence they marshall is beyond reproach, which often means from multiple sources. A setback occurred in the U.S. Congress’s first pass at health reform legislation when the Congressional Budget Office presented cost figures higher than the administration’s numbers. Oops. Small flaws discredit the case for change.
Counter-arguments. Supporters watch how leaders handle skeptics and critics. Each counter-attack must be answered. Change advocates must know the other side as well as their own. They must confront, not deny, alternative explanations and respond with compelling arguments, sometimes incorporating grains of truth in skeptics’ positions.
Big Picture. Significant change rests on beliefs, not just facts; the future is inherently uncertain, facts only a starting point. Change leaders must cultivate fired-up stakeholders by identifying long-term benefits valuable to many. Leaders must inspire belief that they stand with and for stakeholders’ values and goals. In Australia, former opposition leader Turnbull thought it would be enough to have facts on his side, but when climate-gate exploded, he lost both the facts and constituents who had grievances with him.
Pressure and repetition. When pressure for change is in deniers’ faces every day, they often succumb. RBS and Goldman Sachs became recent converts to reduced bonus schemes, despite worrying that they’d lose talent, because multiple media repeated public outrage amplified by public sector regulators. Staying on message and communicating often can sometimes defeat denial.
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