FoodGrads Book Club – Chapter 5 – SWITCH

SWITCH Book Club – a virtual reading experience with Food Grads followers and graduate students from Northeastern University in a synchronized reading of “SWITCH – How to Change Things when Change is Hard” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.

Part 2: Motivate the elephant

Chapter Five: Shrink the Change

RelatedIntroducing the FoodGrads Book Club

Most, if not all of the major food policy areas are nowhere near being considered as small in scope.  Food safety, defense, security, and authenticity will always be large, international concerns across our global food systems.

The authors in this chapter discuss the difficulty in motivating people on long journeys. One way to motivate action is to make people feel as they are already closer to the finish than they might have thought. The sense of progress is critical, because the elephant in us is easily demoralized. If you are leading a change effort, you better start looking for small, measurable victories to serve as mileposts for your team.

Twice in recent months, people told me stories that emphasize this point:

Clíona Mooney, Head of Subscriptions and Reader Insights for The Irish Times spoke at Predict 2018 “The UK’s leading Data Analytics Conference” about Artificial Intelligence and Data Culture in the Media Sphere.  She discussed how paramount her efforts were to achieve and celebrate small successes in order to gain and maintain the company’s acceptance of the use of new technologies.

Vincent Doumeizel, VP of Food Sustainability at Lloyd’s Register (speaking to my graduate students about Global Economics of Food and Agriculture) actually shared an optimistic view of sustainability in terms of what local communities are doing and how industry has made small, positive changes.

In both of these examples, “small wins” have, similar to what the authors discuss, 2 traits:

  1. They are meaningful
  2. They are within immediate reach

I can see this as having a direct application to the future of food regulatory compliance technology.  Blockchain is a buzzword in the industry that also demands leaders to talk about return on investment.  Similar to Clíona’s newspaper example, food companies will need to look at small and immediate goals (and ones associated with corporate social responsibility) along the way to achieving what some executives might hold as the larger return on investment goal.

Similar to Vincent’s optimistic signs of improvement for sustainability, I can also see signs of positive change, though often small, in terms of food safety.  While there will never be an end to foodborne pathogens, consumers have become more aware of food safety over the past 25 years and the industry has seen much momentum in a culture of food safety.  These go a long way to minimize likelihood of outbreaks and recalls.

Big changes are hard to push, but the smaller successes along the way can much more easily gain momentum in terms of positive change and buy-in from your team.

What small victories related to food have you seen?

What are your thoughts on motivating your team on large projects?

Author: Dr. Darin Detwiler, LP.D., M.A.Ed., is the Assistant Dean at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies. He is a professor of food regulatory policy, specializing in food safety, global economics of food and agriculture, Blockchain, and food authenticity.  Detwiler recently received the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Distinguished Service Award (Sponsored by Food Safety Magazine.)

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Twitter: @DarinDetwiler


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