I recently heard the story of a pilot who was commissioned to fly an aircraft over Africa looking for geographical features that could be adapted to form wells and lakes. The objective was to find fertile areas for the inhabitants to move to, away from their drought ridden villages. The results surprised him.
A number of locations were identified and detailed schemes for re-location drawn up. However the project ran out of steam and was finally declared a complete failure. Why? Because the people didn’t want to leave their villages.
In my lectures, I talk about why it is that we humans are change resistant. The theories I teach are not my own – what I share is not new, nor is it complex to understand. So I find it rather strange that the project sponsors hadn’t foreseen this possible outcome and planned for its avoidance. Let’s try and put ourselves in the mindset of the villagers:
Perhaps the villagers are happy with what they have despite:
• Having little to eat
• Having to walk several miles to collect water
• Having few, if any, possessions
And perhaps this is because:
• They have their identity
• They know who they are and where they came from
• They live where their ancestors lived
• The stories they learned as children defined their culture and relate to where they are
• They know their hardships
• They know their challenges
• They know each other
• They can defend themselves because their village has nothing for others to steal
• Admitting some form of defeat and failure
• Giving up their past
• Putting their faith in people they do not know
• Taking a giant risk
• When the ‘project’ is over who will defend them?
• If their new village becomes rich, strangers will come
i. Their community will become bigger and they the minority
ii. The chiefs will lose their influence and power
• They will lose their identity by turning their backs on their forefathers
If there is one thing I would like to achieve in my lifetime, it is to bring back the word ‘why’ to the modern vernacular of adult people. If we seriously want to improve anything, we must first address the question ‘why’. Because that is the only thing in the minds of those that may ‘resist’. Business leaders, politicians and religious organizations are obsessed with talking about ‘what’ they are going to do and ‘how’ they are going to do it. I just wonder when will they begin to start with the ‘why’ and end by inspiring others to join their cause to bring change about.
Effective change is like planting a seed. You need to spend far more time preparing the soil and the environment than you do the actual planting and propagating. And then there’s the nurturing. Even if you do manage to get your change seed to germinate; everyone needs to be involved in nurturing it into a healthy and self-sufficient tree that can withstand adversity and stand proudly on its own.
I wonder if the people working on the Africa project, ever even asked the villagers ‘if there was anything they needed any help with?’ The answer might have surprised them.
Have a good week,