6 principles for managing a campus-wide change

The key to leading a change on campus is working with people's natural inclinations, instead of against them, Kelly Konrad writes in EdTech: Focus on Higher Education.

In her article, Konrad shares insights about navigating change from Katherine Milkman, an associate professor of operations, information and decisions at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert in behavioral economics. In a speech at the recent EDUCAUSE conference, Milkman suggested six ways to encourage change on campus by appealing to human psychology:

1: Make adoption the default

"People are a little lazy," Milkman says, and they tend to take the default option. She recommends using your desired outcome as the default option, then give users a second option to opt out if they choose.

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2: Ask them about their plans

People generally want to follow through on their commitments, so prompt them to make decisions about the change. For example, you can ask leaders when, where, and how they'll implement a proposal, Milkman says. Once they've thought through the details, it's more likely to happen. 

3: Take advantage of the herd mentality

Encourage a small number of early adopters (individuals or whole departments) to participate in an initiative. Once they're on board, others will notice and want to follow them. "It's really uncomfortable to not participate when everyone else is," Milkman says.

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4: Make them feel obligated

Using the right phrase can help your audience feel more accountable for the change. For example, Milkman suggests telling them you are tracking their participation for a study or you plan to compare their participation to their peers'.

5: Use the "fresh start" narrative

Milkman suggests framing changes as new beginnings—almost like a New Year's resolution or a birthday. This will capitalize on our natural desire for a fresh start, she says.

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6: Give them control

Milkman recommends letting your audience make some of the decisions, such as setting the timeframe for the change, and emphasizing what they'll miss out on if they don't participate. Not only does this appeal to our desire for control, but it also encourages people to make plans about the change, increasing the odds they'll follow through on it (Konrad, EdTech: Focus on Higher Education, 11/3). 

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