Change Leadership Secret – 42 – Win With Mere Exposure

Change Leadership — Secret # 42
Win With Mere Exposure

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, humans resist change. Change will occur; vacuums will be filled. —Nikki Giovanni

What I Need to Know

People have an incredible preference for items and situations that are familiar. People actually prefer to suffer with something familiar than change to something different.

Examples of this cognitive bias, called “mere exposure,” are innumerable. One that sticks out in my mind is my father’s preference for Lincoln Towncars. At one point in his life, he perceived the Lincoln Towncar as the ultimate car to own. So he has been driving Lincoln Towncars for four decades. Right now, there are two in his garage. All my life I have heard my mother complain about slick roads in Colorado. I guess I always thought she was a wimp because the snow never slowed me down. The real situation finally dawned on me recently when I was caught in an ice storm while driving a car similar to the Lincoln Towncar. It was like being on an ice-skating rink without skates. My car was useless. I had to have my wife come and pick me up in our four-wheel drive. Then, I realized my parents were not driving in the comfort of Lincoln Towncars; they were driving in the fear that results from being on an ice-skating rink with the wrong shoes. I told my parents they would have a whole new sense of freedom if they traded just one of the two Towncars for any one of a hundred other cars that would drive better in the snow. But what was their response? “Oh, we’re not familiar with those. We don’t need to go anywhere, anyway. We’ll just stay home.”

How many similar examples can you think of?

What I Need to Do

Since you know your customer has a preference for the familiar, you need to expose your customer to the proposed changes until the customer feels familiar with them.

Put a section in your account plan called “Familiarity Tactics” and brainstorm with your team about all the ways you can improve familiarity for the various stakeholders.

Advertising agencies use the phenomena of mere exposure to their advantage, by repeating their message over…and over…and over. This not only helps people remember the product or brand, but it establishes an almost subconscious level of familiarity.

If a person has demonstrated a clear preference for familiarity, introduce new ideas gradually and gently “seed” his thinking. Then, follow up multiple times with the same idea, taking care each time not to apply any pressure, saying, for example, “Have you considered [the idea]?”

Action Summary

  • Be aware that people prefer the familiar over the better.
  • Develop specific tactics to turn “unknown” into “familiar.”
  • Rather than use pressure, use repetition to seed ideas for change.
Change Leadership Secret - 42 Win With Mere Exposure

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