FoodGrads Book Club – Chapter 9 – 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.

Chapter 9: Rally the herd

Figuratively speaking, leading an elephant down an unfamiliar path can easily result in the elephant following the herd. The elephant will always look to the herd for signals about how to behave and what are held as norms or morals.

Some stakeholders will resist change, while other take the lead.  Some will go blindly, trying to emulate the results of other without a clear understanding of the factors involved and how they relate to their company.

In London last week, I spoke at a European Food Fraud conference held at the Queen Elizabeth II Center.  Topics in my presentation included factors of change, big data, advances in technology, ethics, and the true burden of disease.  These elements come to form the bigger picture of what I described as the “Herculean Effort” needed.

Let me be clear – while I pointed out limitations and false expectations related to Blockchain and its role in preventing failures in food authenticity and food safety – I do hope that it can be successful as A tool to support the enormous amount of work, strength, and courage needed for food integrity.

To use Blockchain solely in a ‘reactive’ approach will result in changes that take place after incidents become a crisis, after the public attention impacts a company’s or industry’s reputation, after someone is harmed, and (worse) after someone is killed.  A better approach is to use Blockchain in a predictive manner as well – taking action based on indications and signs before they become incidents.  In a sense, this can be viewed as rallying the herd before we lose options and gain too high a liability, as opposed to solely after.

What I found in the comments of audience members was their satisfaction in that I was the first person they had heard to speak about pros and cons of Blockchain.  My presentation may have eroded some of the ‘silver bullet’ mentality of Blockchain that attracted some of the new herd to ignore other, significant changes that are needed to help make Blockchain successful.

Too many times, when I hear people talk about Blockchain, AI, IOT, machine learning, big data, predictive analytics, and other, related “cutting edge” technology topics, I find that the level of understanding varies greatly between the expert on the stage and the executive in the audience who will play a crucial role in the decision-making, the purchasing, and the leadership over new tools.

To change the culture of an organization, experts and reformers must work together to understand the elephant, the rider, and the path.  This must be done in an academic sense – meaning that much study is needed in areas of leadership, project management, corporate and organizational communication, regulatory affairs, data analytics, behavioral ethics, and more.

It is not enough to simply rally the herd – but to rally the right herds in the right way.  In a way, this reminds me of my Jr. high school and high school band room where our leader, Mr. Yearick, posted a sign that read “Practice doesn’t make perfect…Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Much work needs to go in to making any rallying of the herd successful.  Doing so the wrong way or in an incomplete effort will likely do more harm to the momentum of positive change.

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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