Greg Satell is a writer, speaker, innovation advisor, and one of
today’s most recognized experts on transformational change. As co-CEO of KP Media, a $100 million enterprise, he managed a portfolio of Ukrainian media brands, including the Kyiv Post and correspondent, two news organizations that played pivotal roles in the Orange Revolution.
How do we start a movement?
The number one thing to start a movement is you’ll have to have a cause. Often people start with trying to figure out what a slogan is. Martin Luther, Gandhi or somebody like this to be somebody that you need as an iconic figure what you first need is a cause that people really care about. I’d say that’s the first step start with something that you genuinely care about and that people around you care about as well.
There’s an entire chapter in the book about Gandhi and about how when he came back to India, he created a movement and called for a nationwide series of strikes that are called heart-house and it was an absolute disaster. It was terrible he referred to it as his Himalayan miscalculation it ended in a horrible massacre at Amritsar and ten years later when the Indian national congress came to him to start a series of social activities to start another movement and to start a campaign of civil disobedience he remembered that and he learned from it and because of that it became to be the salt march which everybody else thought was ridiculous nobody took that seriously but what Gandhi understood is it was that was a keystone change. That was the change that would build the bridge from the grievance of wanting to be free of the of the brits to the vision of full independence and once people saw that the British could be defied independence was just a matter of time.
I think that’s another thing that most people don’t understand about movements as the name implies, they are kinetic they change over time and successful revolutionaries whether in a country or in an organization they learn from their mistakes along the way there’s so many movements out there today whether it’s occupy or black lives matter that are they go from failure to failure and they never ever seem to learn and again this is true in a political revolution a social movement or an organizational transformation the righteousness of your cause will not save you. You need to learn how to organize a movement for change.
Let’s take the black lives matter black lives matter movement since you mentioned it what do you think could be done differently to make it more appealing or get it to its logical conclusion?
They make a couple of key mistakes so, this shift from differentiating values which makes you passionate about an idea to shared Values that helps bring people in so let’s look
at something like the LGBTQ movement uh for years they were rallying around where here we’re queer, we’re different and that made people feel really good about the movement but it was only when they it was only when they started talking about raising healthy happy families and living in committed relationships we want the same thing everybody else wants that they started to gain traction.
Very similar we see this in lots of organizations focusing today on agile development and creating agile transformations within their organization and they always start out talking about the agile manifesto which means which people within the agile community are very passionate about people outside the agile community doesn’t mean anything or just seems really strange so you need to focus on the shared values of uh you know better quality projects done faster and cheaper so with black lives matter you know they’re focusing very much on things that rile up that differentiating values you know defund the police which you know to most people defunding no police that sounds like anarchy where they need to focus on shared values so then comes the next question how do you identify those shared values and this is where the magic comes in you know you listen to your most active opposition the people who hate your change right!.. If you look at LGBTQ they people the people who were who were actively opposing them they were constantly talking about family values how did how did the movement win family values so if you look at black lives matter today and this is just one thing there’s also lots of tactical things that we don’t have time for. But what are people who don’t like the movement what are they saying right safety neighbourhoods. Well black lives matter they can focus on. It’s not about defunding the police it’s about safe neighbourhoods and how can neighbourhoods be safe if people are afraid of the police the police are the wrong target people want the police to protect them a much more juicy-target are police unions who defend the bad cops.
You have really outlined six steps which are really amazing steps that that can lead to creating a movement that drives transformational change. Tell us about it.
Right so they’re not steps they’re more like principles. I don’t want to in the time we have I’d like to focus on just a couple of principles the keystone change we already went over so you know you need to start off with always start off what’s the grievance and then once you have that grievance what’s the vision of tomorrow so often people come to us they’re very sure about the grievance but not the vision but a lot of times people come to us with division very common and agile transformations and not quite so clear on what the grievance is? why this change needs to happen?
The vision always has to be aspirational there should never be metrics associated with that vision but the keystone change is what builds that bridge you need to make a plan there are two tools that go back decades been around for decades which we explain in the book uh called the spectrum of allies and pillars of support you use them you’re always mobilizing some somebody to influence something you’re always mobilizing people to influence Institutions those are the two things you need to ask about every action you take who are we mobilizing to influence what? you think about something like the occupy movement they mobilize people they forgot about institutions matter of fact they issued institutions values right and you need to be clear on your values big problem with the me too movement because values are constraints so how are you going to constrain yourself again back to Gandhi very clear about how he was constraining himself and that gave his movement credibility weaving the network that’s how you scale change always about giving people co-optable resources that they can use to make the movement themselves and finally surviving victory. The victory phase is often the most the most dangerous when we get our program, we get a budget for our program or executive sponsorship we think everything’s going to be downhill from there often that’s when things become really difficult so you need to think from the beginning how would an evil person undermine the change I see where am I vulnerable and then how do I go back to shared values to overcome that resistance and that’s the what the two-minute synopsis, 15 years of work.
I would really love you to talk a little bit about the concept of coupled oscillation.
The mystery that was around for Centuries and it was a mystery that was solved by two mathematicians in the late 90s named Duncan Watts and Steve Strogots and gave rise to this idea of small world networks and that’s why the book is called CASCADES because what they described is how this Network cascade like a wave at a stadium how it and that’s the sort of underlying science of what drives a movement as it turns out.
What drives a movement is and what drives transformation is exactly the opposite of what the change consultants have been telling us all this time it’s small groups loosely connected but united by a shared purpose uh so that’s what you really want to focus on identifying small groups who are already enthusiastic about this idea empowering them to link with other groups and drive change forward around a shared purpose.
You talk about the two main pillars in your book about making a plan which is like the spectrum of allies and the pillars of support.
Well that’s what forms the basis for your tactics right every tactic needs to go back to those two things you know all of them I would say you know they’re all different pieces to the puzzle and what I found fascinating was all the movements I looked at whether that was Gandhi in India, Mandela in South- Africa or Louis Gerstner at IBM, or more recent movements at Procter Gamble and Experian all of them started off with very different ideas for change very different personalities philosophies different in every way you can imagine they all made mistakes but they all ended up with the same principles that allowed them to succeed so for instance values are extremely important.
If you look at Mandela and anti-apartheid they came up with something called the freedom charter which became the basis for the entire movement going forward Mandela would say because for decades Mandela was called a communist an extremist an anarchist he would he would always say listen nobody needs to guess what I believe because it was all written down back in 1955 because they don’t, if you’re not willing to incur any cost it’s not something you really value.
Louis Gerstner he said we’re going to value the customer and then he said and we’re going to forego revenue on every sale to do it and when he and ask anybody who worked at IBM in the 90s and they will tell you ‘A’ that was made 100 clear to them and ‘B’ it’s probably the one reason IBM is still in business today because that’s what made everything credible so unless you’re willing to say we’re willing to incur these costs Gandhi said we’re willing to be non-violent even in the face of violence done upon us because satyagraha is always about the force of truth not who’s stronger that’s what gives your movement credibility or your transformation plan credibility but what I think the contribution of cascades is then going and saying do would these same principles work in an organizational institution or industrial setting and what I found was not only do they work as it turns out they seem to be the only thing that does work and the work we’ve done since the book has come out has really been earth-shattering about how we can go into organizations and drive change that nobody thought was possible.
Well Greg thank you so much it’s absolutely been a pleasure talking to you and this book has really you know it would change anybody’s mind to hear it because or to read it because it’s such a transformational book so anybody listening, I think they should all read CASCADES.
CASCADES: How To Create a Movement That Drives Transformational Change by Greg Satell is available on Amazon.com. Click here to buy: https://amzn.to/35ivbhD. Links are an affiliate of Amazon.