It’s said time and time again that the biggest challenge to digital transformation is the culture of organisations. In our new digital world, businesses have to create cultures that are adaptable, innovative and open to change. Digital Transformation is not a once off thing, it’s ongoing, and those cultures that can continually adapt will be the ones that survive and become the success stories. But changing culture is hard, really hard.

It requires strong and bold leadership, a clear vision, great communication and a persistence to keep on reinforcing, again and again.

Now the aim of any change management process is to see behavioural change, which in turn will change the culture. Traditional approaches teach us that we need to change “Hearts” first, then “Minds” and that will cause the “behavioural” change you are looking for.

But sometimes we don’t have the time for this. I’m not saying it isn’t important, it’s what I preach to most of our clients. But I’m also very cognisant that sometimes we need to find quicker solutions for smaller pockets of change and that is where “Culture Hacking” comes in.

If the aim of change management is to change behaviour then let’s start with that but take a Neuroscience approach. Unlike traditional methods that say Hearts > Minds > Behaviour, a Neuroscience approach to the problem would suggest Behaviour > Minds > Heart. If we focus on the behaviour for long enough and change habits, then the mind will follow and eventually the heart. I know this is a controversial approach for many to changing culture but in some cases it’s a solution worth using.

So how do you start Culture Hacking?

The first thing to do is to find a single point where a culture is vulnerable to deep change and exploit that.

Most cultures are vulnerable to change where people spend most of their time, namely doing processes, working on projects or participating in meetings. It also works extremely well if you are trying to get adoption of new technology, rolling out in your organisation.

Research shows that forming a habit takes on average 66 days. So the aim needs to be to get someone to change their behaviour for just 66 days. Get them to do that and a new habit is formed. A habit that reflects the new culture you are looking for.

Let me give you an example:
You launch a new piece of security software but it requires the staff to learn something new and add additional tasks to their daily routine.

Now this doesn’t seem like much of an ask, but if your culture is one that likes the status quo, I can promise you, you’ll see resistance and the majority of staff won’t do it. Even if you appeal to their hearts and minds and preach to them the consequences of a security breach.

But what if you took the Neuroscience approach and focused on the behaviour first. You make it fun. You gamify the learning and action needed by creating an online game that encourages and rewards the right process on a daily basis for 66 days.

Another approach might be to co-create the rollout experience with the teams who have to do it. You give them the outcome. By enabling them to go through the critical thinking they’ll take ownership for it and in turn change their behaviour accordingly.

These are just examples, but whatever you decide to do it needs to be visible, emotional and immediate. And if you get it right, the focus on one small point of change will make it slightly easy for the next one too.

Mike Perk is Managing Director of WWC and a founding partner in Heavy Chef, an inspiration platform for innovators and leaders. He focuses his time on helping guide companies and executives through Digital Transformation with a focus on Change Management through coaching, facilitating & doing.  

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