ALS Topic 26 - Change only happens when people change their minds. (Doesn't it?)

Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, 19 January 2019
Venue: · Adelaide
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Note: About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.


Themes for this topic

Art, music, cuisine, technology & science, problem solving strategies/mindsets, education, economics, politics

Focus Questions

1. DOES CHANGE ONLY HAPPEN WHEN PEOPLE CHANGE THEIR MINDS? "Change happens ... when people change their minds. If everyone just talks to everyone they agree with right now, by definition, change will not occur.” - Anthony Albanese (Guardian, 6 December 2018 -  ) Do you agree with Anthony Albanese? Can you think of particular examples which verify or contradict his argument?

2. WHAT PARTS OF YOU ARE IDEALIST, REALIST OR JUST DELUDED? - can you be a non-ideological person in an ideological world?

3. WHAT IS THE BEST BALANCE BETWEEN ADAPTABILITY AND RESISTANCE TO CHANGE? Adaptability is supposed to be the supreme advantage which homo sapiens hold over other species. Yet a person who is infinitely adaptable, for example to social and political environments, is often derided as lacking principles or consistency.

4. HOW DO YOU SEE THE BALANCE OF POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE OCCURRED IN SOME PART OF YOUR OWN LIFE? Change can happen in any part of a person's life, and in any part of a culture or country's history.

5. DO YOU TEND TO RESIST THE UNCERTAINTY OF CHANGE, OR DO YOU RELISH IT? Some changes are sought after, some are imposed, and some arrive unexpectedly for everyone. In general, do you seek a quiet life where change is minimized, or do you like to surf the uncertainty of whatever life serves up? Why?

6. WHAT (IF ANYTHING) HAS CAUSED YOU TO CHANGE THE MORAL, PHILOSOPHICAL OR PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES WITHIN WHICH YOU LIVE? Almost every system in nature, and in technology, varies (often randomly) within certain boundaries. That is true of your heartbeat, of weather patterns, of the path of a bus on a certain route. Such boundaries promote efficiency and predictability. For the same reason, people may choose to function with the boundaries of a religion or ideology (regardless of whether its principles make rational sense). Many of us during our lives have chosen or been forced to select different boundaries. Think of examples.

7. HUMANS CONSIDER THEMSELVES MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE AND WILL FIGHT OVER NATURAL CHANGES AS VICIOUSLY AS THEY FIGHT OVER CHOSEN CHANGES. IS THIS STRUGGLE SIMPLY STUPID, OR DOES IT HAVE VALUE? Some types of natural change continue at all times: e.g. climate change, genetic mutation, language change etc. The rate of change in such phenomena does vary, and the direction of change is often not predictable.

8. THINK OF EXAMPLES WHERE A FAILURE TO ALLOW LIMITED OR CYCLICAL CHANGE HAS LEAD TO BREAKDOWN. One type of change is oscillation within known boundaries. A pendulum clock oscillates in this way. if it didn't it couldn't function at all. The success of political parties, and over a longer time frame, human power structures generally, also oscillate between certain extremes. Where they don't, this has historically led to cultural sclerosis and failure. Individuals also oscillate in daily, weekly and lifetime cycles of activity. e.g. We might be highly disciplined within a work environment, but break loose or even be chaotic on weekends.

9. ARE PROFESSIONAL 'CHANGE MANAGERS' JUST PARASITES, OR DO THEY HAVE SOMETHING USEFUL TO CONTRIBUTE? WHAT WOULD THEY HAVE TO OFFER TO BE USEFUL? "Change manager" is one of the new new career titles found in industry, government and commerce. There is also a tribe calling themselves "change consultants"? Objectively, their record has often been dubious. This might or might not be inevitable.

10. CAN CHANGE AND OPPOSITION TO CHANGE REALLY BE FENCED IN BY A POLITICAL IDEOLOGY? Why do political party names so often poorly reflect the behaviour of their members? For example, a common political divide worldwide is apparently between conservatives and progressives. However, once a party name is chosen supposedly reflecting these tendencies, relatively progressive and conservative personality types cluster under EACH banner.


Comments & Extra Reading

Thor May (2015) “Surfing or Drowning in an Ocean of Change?”. @

“All Progress Depends on the Unreasonable Man" => "Free enterprise liberates the perhaps 10% of creative entrepreneurs - often unreasonable people ("The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." [George Bernard Shaw] ) - the remaining 90% of the population – reasonable folk – can tend to end up feeling like wage slaves" => commenter on an article by the economist, Ross Gittins, "Compared to you and me, the feudal serfs had it easy", Brisbane Times, 4 January 2019 @ (n.d.) "Principles of persuasion - the many ways to change people's minds" @ [.. a huge website with 7000 pages] => Extracts : "Persuasion principles. Much of persuasion and other forms of changing minds is based on a relatively small number of principles. If you can understand the principles, then you can invent your own techniques. It thus makes sense to spend time to understand these principles (persuaded yet?)".
Alignment: When everything lines up, there are no contradictions to cause disagreement.
Amplification: Make the important bits bigger and other bits smaller.
Appeal: If asked nicely, we will follow the rules we have made for ourselves.
Arousal: When I am aroused I am full engaged and hence more likely to pay attention.
Association: Our thoughts are connected. Think one thing and the next is automatic.
Assumption: Acting as if something is true often makes it true.
Attention: Make sure they are listening before you try to sell them something.
Authority: Use your authority and others will obey. [continued]
Bonding: I will usually do what my friends ask of me, without negotiation.
Closure: Close the door of thinking and the deal is done.
Completion: We need to complete that which is started.
Confidence: If I am confident, then you can be confident.
Conformance: People are driven to obey rules.
Confusion: A drowning person will clutch at a straw. So will a confused one.
Consistency: We like to maintain consistency between what we think, say and do.
Contrast: We notice and decide by difference between two things, not absolute measures.
Daring: If you dare me to do something, I daren't not do it.
Deception: Convincing by trickery.
Dependence: If you are dependent on me, I can use this as a lever to persuade you.
Distraction: If I distract your attention, I can then slip around your guard.
Easy: I like things which are easy (and not things which are difficult).
Evidence: I cannot deny what I see with my own eyes.
Exchange: if I do something for you, then you are obliged to do something for me.
Experience: I cannot deny what I experience for myself.
Fragmentation: Break up the problem into agreeable parts.
Framing: Meaning depends on context. So control the context.
Harmony: Go with the flow to build trust and create subtle shifts.
Hurt and Rescue: Make them uncomfortable then throw them a rope.
Interest: If I am interested then I will pay attention.
Interruption: Break the flow.
Investment: If I have invested in something, I do not want to waste that investment.
Involvement: Action leads to commitment.
Logic: What makes sense must be true.
Objectivity: Standing back decreases emotion and increases logic.
Obligation: Creating a duty that must be discharged.
Ownership: I am committed to that which I own.
Passion: Enthusiasm is catching.
Peer Pressure: We do what we think others want us to do.
Perception: Perception is reality. So manage it.
Persistence: In all things, persistence pays.
Pleading: Asking with attitude.
Positivity: Use positive methods.
Priming: Prior informational influence.
Pull: Create attraction that pulls people in.
Push: I give you no option but to obey.
Repetition: If something happens often enough, I will eventually be persuaded.
Scarcity: I want now what I may not be able to get in the future.
Similarity: We trust people who are like us or who are similar to people we like.
Simplicity: Simple means easy to understand and agree.
Social Compliance: The pressure to conform.
Social Proof: When uncertain we take cues other people.
Specificity: People fill in the gaps in vague statements.
Substitution: Put them into the story.
Surprise: When what happens is not what I expect, I must rethink my understanding.
Tension: I will act to reduce the tension gaps I feel.
Threat: If my deep needs are threatened, I will act to protect them.
Trust: If I trust you, I will accept your truth and expose my vulnerabilities.
Uncertainty: When I am not sure, I will seek to become more certain.
Understanding: If I understand you, then I can interact more accurately with you.
Unthinking: Go by the subconscious route.


Douglas R. Conant (January 12, 2012) "The Power of Idealistic-Realism: How Great Leaders Inspire and Transform". Harvard Business Review @ 

Comment, Thor: I'm with Conant on this. I start with an idea/vision of what I want to achieve, then adapt pragmatically, within limits, to achieve this. However my own limited direct political experience (student leadership, workplace union organization) has been that there is often intense pressure of "the ends justify the means" type, which can eventually corrupt the values of the people involved.

Thomas DeMichele (July 25, 2016) "Political Realism Vs. Political Idealism". Fact/Myth website @

Carsten Tams (Jan 26, 2018) "Why We Need To Rethink Organizational Change Management". 

Comment, Thor: Individuals, organizations and governments need to be open to adaptation in changing environments, and finding better ways to do things. However my own experience in many, many organizations is that "change" is often a fake stratagem by management or politicians for personal gain, where they seek to appear to be doing something, but actually create confusion, mayhem and demoralization.

Thomas DeMichele (July 14, 2016) "Humans are Quick to Adapt to Change". Fact/Myth website @ 

Dan Kahan (July 15, 2014) ""Bounded rationality": the Grigori Rasputin of explanations for public perceptions of climate change risk". Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School @ 

Anna Salleh (21 April 2016) "Brain circuit that helps us adapt to change fades with age, study finds". Australian Broadcasting Commission @

Comment, Thor: If you read the article, there are really two issues involved in this: a) possible decline of a neural component (the striatum), and b) motivation. Of course, b) can affect a). People who are apathetic, old or young, are likely to suffer some deterioration of the striatum and hence adaptability. Brains like muscles are influenced by use.

Thor May - Ageing is an example of forced change to which we all adapt or fail to adapt. For example, most doctors will pat you on the back and say that after 30 your lose 5% of muscle a year, until you turn into a wobbling mass. Not your fault huh? Bunk. If you look around you will certainly see that overwhelming pattern. However my own experience, distance running for 56 years, and doing upper body exercises, is that the loss is not inevitable. Like an old car, it takes more maintenance, but the machine can still be kept in reasonable condition. I have to put in more time to stay fit at 73 than at 20, but it's worth it. Most people are not prepared to do that.

Thor's own websites:

1. articles at ;

2. legacy site: .


Change only happens when people change their minds. (Doesn't it?) (c) Thor May 2019 return to Ddiscussion