Posts Tagged ‘engagement’

Switching off the lights

posted by Scott McKenzie

There are moments of parenthood which are genuinely surreal. I often come home to a scene which resembles a modern-day Mary Celeste. A half-eaten plate of food,  the living room light on, TV still blasting away, and an untouched glass of wine… All usually signs that the youngest daughter has woken up suddenly, and disrupted the solitude of a quiet meal in front of the box.

Ours is truly a life of constant interruptions.

I was considering this as a possible answer to a question my colleague Sue Cook posed to  me about Earth Hour , which will take place this coming Saturday. For the uninitiated, Earth Hour is the annual Climate Change campaign which has the simple approach of asking us to switch off unnecessary lights, appliances, etc, for just one hour.

Sue’s question to me was fairly fundamental: how do we get people to change behaviour? How do we get them to switch off the lights?

At one level it’s a question that seems so easy to answer. I mean how difficult is it really to switch a light off. My three-year old daughter can do it. (Then again, she can also switch them on… which may be a small, but growing contributory factor to the problem!).

There were conflicting views when I put this problem to the team. The solutions fell in to three camps:

1) Make it cool

2) Make it simple

3) Punish people

Clearly there are drawbacks and benefits to each solution. Making it cool sounds great, but runs the risk of being a fad. This isn’t really about doing something for one hour… we are looking for long-term, sustained change. Right?

Make it simple? Well, as I said, at one level it couldn’t be more straightforward. Yet we still leave our appliances on. Is it that things are really too complex for us? Perhaps it’s about being nudged more often. We recently did some work with remote workers at a global heavy industrials company. We were trying to ask employees to follow essential processes (including Health & Safety measures). Our approach was to really understand where key points in the process might be… where exactly would people make decisions, or simply forget about the process? Having done that forensic analysis it was then all about having simple (but visible) prompts and reminders at key points in the process. The results were impressive. There was a marked improvement in the adoption of key processes.

As for the third solution… yes we could punish people more. We could make people pause by introducing draconian punishments for high energy usage – including fines, or even public humiliation. I’m a great believer in incentives and disincentives…  Indeed the market may already be heading that way in any case as rising energy prices begin to provide a growing disincentive for wastage…

I am sure the best solution will borrow from all of the above. My view as with any change process is that it needs to feel immediate for the people who need to change.The changes need to be based in real-life, it should resonate with their everyday circumstances. The changes proposed should have tangible, meaningful impact.

And maybe that’s the real problem. Turning off a light switch just feels so… well… small. Particularly next to an objective like saving the planet. Are we really able to make the emotional (and rational) connection between that huge goal, and our small action?

So Sue,  I’m not sure if that answers your question? Probably not satisfactorily, but rest assured my household will be doing its bit this coming Saturday. Well if we’re not interrupted that is…

Coming up for air

posted by Scott McKenzie

My second daughter Niamh  is 7 months old today.

It’s fair to say that I subscribe to the concept of the second child multiplier-effect… in other words 1+1 does not + 2… it feels many times harder than that!

The early casualty of this has been what Sir Clive Woodward calls the critical non-essentials. The things that make an incremental difference but could be described as non-core. A bit like this blog.

The cumulative effect of very little sleep, an incredibly hectic work schedule and no free time has often felt like both myself and my wife have been living our lives under-water… in a kind of parallel world, where everything takes much longer but paradoxically you have even less time…!

Since the new year I have tried hard to change things. I’ve taken a bit more exercise. I’ve had the odd night out with friends. I’ve booked a holiday to go and see my parents who live in Canada (it’s the first time my dad will have seen Niamh since she was born). It all feels a little bit selfish when there are so many other demands on your time. But in another sense it has felt like I am coming up for air…

For example, last night I attended VMA’s excellent event at The Hospital Club which revealed the results from their comprehensive Business Leaders in Communications survey. It was a stellar panel with senior communciators from GSK and BP as well as academics and thought leaders. The key-note speaker was Charlie Mayfield, Executive Chairman of John Lewis Partnership. Clearly John Lewis have been much in the news recently, with the Deputy Prime Minister seeking to build what he describes as a “John Lewis” economy. Charlie rightly pointed out that the co-operative model is not a panacea for all known ills. As I have stated in previous blogs I am a huge fan of co-operatives but would also concede their limitations.

Instead what I took out of Charlie’s remarkably candid and inspriring discussion was his clear view that communications is a major cultural lever. His view is that great communications contributes directly to increased engagement from partners (employees), and as a result… an increase in dicretionary effort. So this is not fluffy. There is a clear competitive advantage to be drawn from great communications.

That message certainly helped me take a deeper breath…