I’m not going to lie; Daniel Pink is one of my heroes. After reading his book Drive a few years back my professional practice was significantly changed for the better. His work really made me critically reflect upon my leadership practices. This led to a decision to give my staff and students more autonomy, which resulted in a greater sense of ownership of their learning. The power of social media then connected the both of us leading to him Skyping with the students at New Milford High School, a personal dialogue over the years, and his endorsement of my new book on Digital Leadership. Pink was the morning keynote on the opening day of the Annual ASCD Conference in Los Angeles, CA. His presentation focused on the research presented in his new book To Sell is Human. This post will be my best attempt to summarize his keynote.
Image credit: http://www.brandingstrategyinsider.com/2014/03/10-keys-for-brand-persuasion-and-change.html#.UyXBv61dXJ4
So with these challenges what do we do about it in the field of education? One way is to look at current research, especially the work of Robert Cialdini. His research into influence and behavioral science allows us to piece together more effective ways to persuade, or embrace change, as I would prefer. Social science suggest three core qualities to move people towards change:
- Attunement – Can you get out of your own head and see a different point of view? We must learn to accept and embrace different perspectives.
- Buoyancy – If we are facing an ocean of rejection how do we stay afloat?
- Clarity – How do we make sense of information? We must move from just accessing information to curating information.
Instead of having “big, hairy goals” Pink suggests that we should focus on small wins. As we continue to find success through these small wins they will eventually culminate into moving people where we want, and need, them to be. For this to happen we must relinquish a certain amount of power and control. It is important for us to not let power overtake our core values, as it will negatively impact our willingness to be open to the perspectives of others. We can become more effective by reducing our feelings of the need for power. This was extremely refreshing for me to hear as we have moved away from directives and mandates at NMHS, both heavily aligned to power hungry leadership. This, in combination with giving up control and trusting both students and teachers, has allowed us to initiate sustainable change at my school leading to transformation.
So who is better at selling stuff, introverts, extroverts, or ambiverts? Well the answer was ambivert, but what the heck is this? According to Pink ambiverts are in the middle of both extroverts and introverts. None of us really possess all of the qualities and characteristics that define either an introvert or extrovert. What this really means is that we have to become a better version of ourselves in order to improve our ability to persuade. Or better yet, to move people to where they need to be.
You can do this! Well actually this might not be the best course of action. Buoyancy in this frenetic world rests on interrogative self-talk. A change in mindset that has us ask the question can I do this actually leads to better outcomes related to change. Interrogative self-talk is actually more instructional and can spark the autonomous intrinsic motivation to pursue and accomplish a goal. Pink provided a great analogy in Bob the Builder, who asks the question can we fix this? Taking this perspective can really assist educators move people towards a better way.
Persuasion and motivation are not done to someone; it is actually something they want to do. Context drives behavior more than we realize. Sometimes changing people’s minds is what we focus on when instead we need to give them an off ramp to act. When we try to lead there is a tendency to focus on the how. This is important, but it shortchanges the why. The cheapest persuasive tool we have is explaining the why. Pink recommends having tow conversations on why to every on how. As others understand the why the road the change becomes clear.