Motivating people to change requires a burning platform combined with an inspiring future vision.
We’ve seen what happens when companies become complacent and stop innovating. A startup or other innovator disrupts their markets and businesses. We know innovation and change is important, but how do you get people focused and moving in the right direction?
Providing people with a compelling vision of the future is a typical approach to inspiring change. Leaders craft vision statements to convince people the future painted within their PowerPoints will be better than the current state. The problem with this approach is that a big vision isn’t always enough to get everyone mobilized and moving in the same direction.
Another approach to motivating people to change is to create a “burning platform.” The concept of a burning platform comes from the analogy of standing on an oil platform at sea that’s on fire – the urgency to save yourself is so great you take action and jump off. In business, burning platform is a term used to describe the process of helping people see the dire consequences of not changing. By sparking just enough concern about what happens if the status quo remains the same, people embrace change. The problem with this approach is that people don’t know what lies on the other side of the change.
In reality, both approaches are needed and can, and should, go hand in hand to help people see the need for change and the benefits at the end of the road.
Use this four-step framework to generate your burning platform and the ideal future state:
- What is the current problem?
- What is the anticipated result if nothing is done to address the current problem?
- What is the current opportunity to things differently?
- What is the anticipated future result after the opportunity is achieved?
After answering these questions, you’re equipped to craft a single statement outlining your thinking. Use this format:
If we keep doing 1, then 2 will likely happen. If we do 3 instead, then we will achieve 4.
Here’s a simple illustration: If we keep overspending on supplies, we won’t have enough fundin for marketing. If we cut back the supplies budget by 20% now and apply it to marketing, we will gain new customers and grow all departments by 40% next year.
Driving change starts with understanding the current state, what’s not working, what to do about it, and what you’re aiming for as the end result. Give people this, and they may just jump into your better future.
Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.