I’ve written previously about an advertising campaign I don’t much like which is for Encorp/Return-it (a great and successful recycling program here in BC). It appears that for summer 2014, Encorp’s angry cans are back on the streets telling you what you’re doing wrong. I’ve started a new Change Management and Project Management and as the offices are located downtown in the city, I’m exploring the different public transit options. Last week, at the Granville Street Canada Line station I came face-to-face with an even larger, 3-D backlit version of one of Encorp’s Angry Cans. When I put my Change Management and Change Communications hat on, and consider the negative messaging driving this campaign, I continue to believe that not even the cute cartoon imagery redeems the basic punitive approach and messaging. Previously, I’ve written about how research shows that changing behaviours and habits in people works best with positive reinforcement and positive communications over negative. The data-driven support for my opinion includes the findings of B.R. Skinner, a seminal behavioural psychologist. Since my earlier post about Encorps Angry Cans, I’ve also done more reading about Appreciate Inquiry (AI). AI is a model and technique for brain-storming, analysis and planning that focuses on what is working, as opposed to typical problem-solving which focuses on what isn’t working for a certain situation. As a model, AI was developed at the department of Organizational Behaviour at Case Western Reserve University, based on a 1987 article by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. The authors felt that focusing on failings and negative lessons learned, hampered the creativity and open-minded engagement in order to craft alternative solutions. Appreciate Inquiry asks the question “what IS working”. By starting a direction of inquiry around what is working and why it is working, the aim is to build on success in order to create more success. In a way, by focusing on success you avoid planning to repeat what isn’t working. Those involved in an AI exercise report that they remain more energized and enthusiastic than if spending time focusing on negative problem-solving. A talented and experienced Change Agent can use AI in a valuable way when looking to crowdsource solutions from stakeholder and build the Awareness and Desire (in the ADKAR model) to motivate organizational change. Some cultures, in particular those that don’t like to dig back into their own dirty laundry, will respond more productively and cooperatively to an AI approach. Finally, an AI perspective would say that Encorp’s message has the angry cans at a disadvantage. I remain of the opinion that a cast of happy cans enjoying their recycled and up-cycled life would better motivate the public to pay attention to Encorp’s mission and be led by their messaging.  

MY TAKEAWAYS

  • Positive Messaging drives change in human habits and behaviours more successfully than negative messaging.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is a model that focuses on “what IS working” versus “what ISN’T working”.
  • Appreciative Inquiry concepts can work well in organizational cultures that don’t like to focus on past failures, or lack of industry prominence.
  • A talented and experienced Change Agent understands how and when to use Appreciative Inquiry concepts to drive and motivate organizational change.