Some time ago, I made good use of a short clip called “the Smell of the Place”, in which an Indian Professor called Sumantra Ghoshal explains that influencing behavior has a “lot less to do with influencing people and a lot more to do with creating the right context” than most people think. Watch it here on YouTube. It is a compelling story. There are a couple of strong messages in it That made me decide to use it for a DesignShop session. I did not show the clip to the participants of the session But used it as a design principle for creating the space for them in which they needed to do what needed be done.
the DesignShop went really well, people who had known each other for years were having conversations they never had before, but always had wanted to have. About two thirds into the progress of the event, one of the participants stood up in a plenary moment. She stated that she was highly surprised about the fact that they were having fundamentally different conversations than they would normally have when meeting each other. To her, this had something to do with the context that my team and I had created for them. She stated that they as persons were not different, but that the environment and the way of working that we designed for them made them demonstrate different behavior.
To me, this was a delight, as I got the feedback that the design principle had worked as I hoped. It also made me think about the week after the session, when all of them would have returned to their usual context. Would they immediately slip into their usual behavior? Would they take something away with them and start changing their own context?
Here’s the next challenge: how do we let people take a contextual experience with them and let them apply it to their own context?