We often see truth as an absolute but the reality is that our communities define our truth. Even scientific truths like the existence of gravity as a physical force would not be the accepted truth if everyone in the community thought instead that fairies were responsible for snatching items from people’s hands and moving them to the floor. Just ask people on either side of the evolution/creationism debate. Both sides claim to know the truth. Where each of us come down on that topic depends largely on the communities with which we identify. Communities are powerful influencers of our perceptions.
While I’ve realized this for awhile and have, because of it, thought that communities are really good mechanisms for innovation or change I’ve been reading The Power of Habit, which made it clear that communities are not only a good way to affect change, they are actually the only way to make change sustainable. Charles Duhigg lays out three requirements for sustained habit change:
- Replacing routines – i.e what individuals do between a behavioral trigger and the reward
- Having the Belief that change is possible
- A community that reinforces the change
The implications of this for business leaders is this: If you want to change, you need to not only layout out the mechanics of the change but you also need evangelism to give people the faith that true change is possible and you need a community of people who have already changed to reinforce and support the change. That community is the is the purveyor of the new truth.
One of the core principals that Jim and I have used in our work with business leaders is that our role is to ‘infect’ our clients and members with a new community-oriented perspective on how to execute on business goals. Our clients’ role, in turn, is to go and infect a few more people inside of their organization and start a chain reaction. My aha after reading The Power of Habit is just how critical the role of TheCR Network is in giving our clients a community of people who are also in the process of changing, which is reinforcing and normalizing new behaviors, perspectives and habits. This is a community that most of our clients do not have access to within their own organizations.
This process may be hard for many in the business world to accept because it suggests a critical role both for “soft” skills and the time required to practice them that cannot be quantified easily. But for leaders who want to innovate, change their market positioning, build a new market or transform the culture of their organization they will need to make room in their planning and budgets for items requiring faith and social connections, not just the mechanics of change. I highly recommend The Power of Habit – it is both eye opening and simple – and it made me understand just how critical communities are to the change process.
TheCR Network is a membership network that provides strategic, tactical and professional development programming for community and social business leaders. The network enables members to connect and form lasting relationships with experts and peers as well as get access to vetted content.