The Psychology of Conversion – 20 Tips to get Started
We can learn a great deal from our fundamentalist friends and people with addictions after all, these are the experts in conversion. If you are a safety officer or a risk manager you must wonder why it is so hard to convert people to becoming safety and risk believers. I have a friend who is a Safety Manager who describes safety walks and audits as ‘changing a dummy (pacifier) from one mouth to another’. I have another Safety Manager friend who describes safety walks as ‘a walk in the discovery of wrongness’. Pretty negative stuff. It would be an interesting study to see what the dropout rate from the safety profession is and what are the contributing factors.
How frustrating for safety people to spend so much time playing the same broken record or finding out after playing the big stick, people just don’t report or ‘spin’ the truth. This is where our fundamentalist and evangelical friends teach us something about attraction, motivation and conversion.
Conversion is a revolution in personality and purpose. Perhaps the best study of religious conversion was undertaken by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience. However, there is not much available or specific books published on the psychology of conversion.
Most safety officers and risk managers act as policeman and evangelists in what they do. Rather than get people into heaven, safety officers want to get people intact by the end of the day. However, the methods often chosen for policing and conversion are sporadic and often unsuccessful. Whilst some conversion instruments have some success like BBS, the blunt instrument of behaviourism doesn’t understand the sophistication of human complexity nor the psychology of conversion. Whilst limited success is good, wouldn’t it be nice to know a bit more about how humans change, are motivated and how to strive for conversion?
Here are some of the core elements of the psychology of conversion:
1. Developing a positive organizational climate
2. Understanding and creating cognitive dissonance
3. Knowing and recognizing ‘tipping points’
4. Developing leaders who know how to manage mavens and mavericks
5. Creating workplace climates for admission and confession
6. Cultivating a culture of reporting, forgiveness, understanding and acceptance
7. Understanding the dynamics of belonging and ethos change
8. Recognising and influencing cultural discourse and groupthink
9. Developing skills in pitching, framing, priming and understanding about speaking to the unconscious
10. Understanding defensiveness, complacency and automaticity
11. Understanding the dynamics of motivation, inspiration and learning
12. Developing a culture which understands and welcomes error
13. Cultivating a culture where doubt is interpreted as a positive
14. Ensuring that ‘punishment fits the crime’
15. Encouraging exposure to counterfactual belief and counterintuitive thinking
16. Balancing lag and lead indicators
17. Rejecting ‘zero tolerance’ for more human discourse such as ‘safety journey’, harm minimization and continuous improvement
18. Developing an understanding of complexity systems theory, wicked problems and abductive reasoning
19. Understanding heuristics particularly ‘sunk cost effect’, confirmation bias, anchoring and concurrence seeking behavior (CBS)
20. Creating contagious behaviour
It’s quite a list and it isn’t difficult to understand and develop skills in such matters. I have written about many of these topics in my book and on my own blog. The important thing is to make a start!