Win Over Hearts First

Tom Asacker and the Behavior Science Guys (BS Guys) talk about the reasons we don’t change our behaviours even when we have been instructed in compelling ways. The BS Guys used children and smoking as a really compelling example. When the children tell smokers that smoking is dangerous, unhealthy, and deadly the smokers were unmoved. But when the children looked like they themselves were smoking, it evoked an emotional response in the adult smokers, which caused them to be receptive to the anti-smoking message the children were sharing. Likewise, Tom Asacker talks about how we as humans are influenced by perceptions in ways that are not necessarily logical, and used the Patagonian Toothfish as an example. When Lee Lance started calling the Patagonian Toothfish, something that had been considered garbage fish by fisherman for years, by the name “Chilean Sea Bass” it became wildly popular. We perceive that the Chilean Sea Bass is a highly desirable meal fish, even though it is not from the waters of Chile, nor is it a bass, and the fish itself is rather frightening looking and not appealing at all. We are moved by perceptions… led by emotions… easily influenced by words.

In the video “Leading Change: Establish a Sense of Urgency,” John Kotter discusses the need to demonstrate why the change is needed by establishing a sense of urgency. As in Simon Sinek’s video, a sense of urgency helps establish the reason that necessitates the change… the “why.” Sinek talks about how establishing the “Why” of what you are doing relates to the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain that controls emotion, and basic functions including fight or flight responses. Kotter’s video “The Heart of Change” emphasizes that we need to target emotions and then the mind when trying evoke change, that we need to “win over hearts and minds” when dealing with people.

I think when most people think of effecting change in their organization, they emphasize the mind more than the emotional aspects. But the emotional side of our brains (controlled by the limbic system) is tied to learning and memory. So if we can tap into emotions, and then  support that with data and rational justification, we have a better chance of ensuring success. Additionally, when thinking about the changes we need to implement, we should keep in mind that many people have fear of change. To assuage their fears, all aspects of the plan for change should be open and transparent, keeping everyone informed. Remember “amygdala hijacking?” Well, that’s part of the function of the limbic system too. Keeping everyone informed in all of the processes will help to ensure that the amygdala does not send our co-workers into self-preservation mode, where they would be less likely to function in rational and productive ways.


Asacker, T. Why TED Talks don’t change people’s behavior [Video]. Retrieved from

The Behaviour Science Guys. How to change people who don’t want to change [Video]. Retrieved from

Kotter, J. The Heart of change [Video]. Retrieved from

Kotter, J. Leading change: Establish a sense of urgency [Video], Retrieved from

Sinek, S. Start with why TED Talk [Video]. Retrieved from


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