Change, especially of the tricky, cultural kind, has been one of the most challenging topics in management over the last few years. In that time there has been a distinct change in how we seek to persuade people to change their behaviors, with behavioral psychology giving us fresh insights into how we do the things we do.
Despite these fresh insights, you sense that much of the change management approach has remained the same, with messages cascading from board level and distinctly mixed messages between what is communicated and the numerous other signals that the workplace gives out.
I argued in The 8 Step Guide to Building a Social Workplace for a shift towards a more environmental approach to change, in that if you adapt the environment to promote certain behaviors, then people will modify their behaviors accordingly. This has to be systemic and includes things like how decisions are made, how you pay and measure performance, how information flows and so on. The aim is to provide a constant reminder of what behaviors are desired.
Of course, these are all largely human constructs, but over the past few years, we have also seen technology evolve such that it can increasingly provide these reminders in just the right situations.
A recent paper, published in the Proceedings of the IEEE, explores the latest technological changes in areas such as the Internet of Things that will underpin this movement. For instance, we might soon work in an environment where technology can ensure the most influential person gives us the message we need in order to conform to the right behavior through a combination of mobile computing and knowledge of our social networks.
The paper also highlights how technology will increasingly be able to influence the how, the where and the when of persuasion so that they get just the right message at just the right time to ensure their behaviors are consistent.
Suffice to say, it may be sometime before these technologies start influencing the workplace, but it will certainly be an interesting field to monitor, and this paper is certainly a good introduction to it.