FoodGrads Book Club Chapter 6 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.

Part 2: Motivate the elephant

Chapter 6: Grow your people

When people make choices, they tend to rely on one of two basic models of decision-making the consequences model or the identity model.

In the Consequences Model of decision-making, there is the assumption that when we have a decision to make, we weigh the costs and benefits of our options and make the choice that maximizes our satisfaction.  This reflects the Deontological theory in Normative Ethics, where Moral actions are evaluated on the basis of inherent rightness or wrongness rather than goodness or a primary consideration of consequences.  More specifically, Kantian Ethics holds that. An action can only be good if it is a duty to moral law.

In the Identity Model of decision-making, we essentially ask ourselves three questions when we have a decision to make:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What kind of situation is this?
  3. What would anyone like me do in this situation?

Again, this reflects the Deontological theory in Normative Ethics, but this time, it specifically aligns with Ethical Egoism, which holds that The ethical position that people should act in their own self-interest.

I was recently at odds with a choice I had to make as a college administrator: do the right thing, or do the popular thing.  I chose to do the right thing and have been hearing from students who are commenting about how my decision makes me the ‘bad guy’ in their eyes.  The reality is that I care less about how they feel about me than I do in knowing that they are getting the best academic outcomes and will be supported for success.  In the long run, how would I benefit if graduates could not achieve the level of understanding and skills that we tell them they can achieve – but they really like me?

This chapter also talks about keeping the elephant motivated when it faces a long, though road. Failures along the journey are inevitable, but if failure is a necessary part of change, then the way people understand failure is critical. I have had students earn poor grades on major papers, but thank me for providing the detailed feedback and attention to their progress and support that they needed.  Again, doing the right thing can clash with taking the popular action (such as giving an easy vs. challenging and supporting students with best teaching practices) and in my book, doing the right thing is what students as consumers are paying for and expecting.

One last item discussed in this chapter is motivating your people.  Motivation comes from feeling knowledge isn’t enough to motivate change. But motivation also comes from confidence.

Food safety, quality, defense, security, and authenticity all require a Herculean effort of all participants along the way from farm to the fork.  Herculean effort is best defined as something requiring an enormous amount of work, strength, and courage.

A recent conversation put food safety into a different light for me.  I asked someone in Dubai who works in food safety about how his focus impacts his personal life.  What he told me is something that we need to consider in how we communicate with the many people needed as part of this herculean effort.

When someone really loves music, I don’t think they would just stop singing.  They would not think that they only sing when they are at music school that they stop singing when they are at home.  That would never happen.  Food safety is like music for me I don’t realize that I am doing things related to food safety it just comes to me when I am doing many related tasks and even cooking at home.  So, it is part of my life.

Food safety experts talk about culture, about mission, about prioritizing it and investing in it.  Consumers talk about food safety after incidents and crises have already harmed people. The news and social media broadcasts information of industry failures and victims as if this coverage is an inevitable part of their job.

Imagine if food safety efforts were treated like music something that can be woven into the fabric of industry like an art, like something that drives and is driven by passion.  This is another form of engaging and motivating your people.  Imagine if solo food safety workers collaborate and band together with large groups to orchestrate herculean efforts.

There will never be an end to foodborne illness.  When it comes to the #HerculeanEffort behind food safety, however, I hope the music never ends.

What are your thoughts?

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.)


Twitter: @DarinDetwiler

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