Look For the Bright Spots: Invoking Change in a different culture

 Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2011). Switch. Random House LLC.
 See specifically "chapter 2"


In this book, the authors describe methods for invoking change in impossible seeming situations. Throughout the book, the authors use the analogy of a rider on an elephant walking along the path. The rider represents logical side of a situation (or will-power), the elephant represents the emotional side of a situation, and the path represents the environment or situation itself. They note that when a person uses will-power or logic alone to invoke a change, they will often times become exhausted and lose sight of the goal -- that is to say, eventually the Elephant (the emotional side) overpowers the Rider (the logical side).

 In order to invoke change, one must ensure that the Rider is given logical and clear direction to ensure they are not over-thinking the situation and losing focus, as well as give the Elephant an emotional reason to continue towards the goal. Finally the path to that goal must be clear and achievable, if not the goal -- no matter how logically or emotionally desirable-- will seem impossible and out of reach.

Example Case - Looking for Bright Spots:

One case provided looks at solving malnutrition in children in a Vietnam. The situation seems impossible, and the solution must be provided quickly or the government will lose what little trust they have in the aid workers. They workers begin by looking for "bright spots" - areas where the situation isn't so bad. They interview parents in a village and find that some children are in fact growing and more healthy than others.

They then try to identify what these outliers are doing differently - Why are some children in a poverty-stricken area healthier than others? They find that some parents are mixing different foods that are widely available (but not typically seen as nutritional or appropriate for children) into the diets of their children. They also find that the same amount of food is being fed to these children in four small meals throughout the day (typically children would eat two larger meals),  and fed to the children even if they are sick (often food consumption was much lower if a person was sick). All these small differences led to vast improvements in health.

By looking at bright spots they appeal to the Elephants by providing Hope in the parents - hope that their children can be healthy too. They've also appealed to the Rider, as the goal is logically desirable, it makes sense to want to be healthy, and the solution is simple. Next they formed the path.

Foreign aid workers face the challenge of being seen as outsiders when they arrive, and having any solutions being seen as an outsiders perspective. In order to ensure their solution was appreciated and accepted, they went to the parents of children who were doing well and asked them to help lead cooking classes and teach other parents about their methods. This provided a clear path and made the goal achievable. It also ensured that the solution was accepted as a local solution and was well understood by all.

Why This is Important:

It will be incredibly important for us to ensure our designs appeal to the emotional side of our users as well as provide logical and clear solutions to the problems we seek to solve. Additionally, it is important that we look to current solutions and similar areas where similar problems have been solved - we must look for the bright spots. Furthermore, solutions we provide should provide clear guidance and be achievable, as well as appeal to the local community and be built for their needs.

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