The Prophet

The Prophet

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You’re never a prophet in your own land.

That’s what I tell people who are trying to make changes in my own community.

I often see the frustration of people trying to make ideas happen – expecting people to just listen to reason and logic.

What they don’t realise is that within your own community, people come to appreciate both your strengths and weaknesses. And for evolutionary reasons, the human mind tends to focus on the negative. A subconscious desire to compete with members of your own community also causes defences to naturally go up. All this, and the fear of change itself means that people are reluctant to disturb the status quo or listen to ‘reason’.

The subconscious bias towards the discrediting or dismissal of new ideas is a natural dynamic – and not something to take personally.

It is very hard to listen to someone you know without some historical judgement being applied to what they say. Everything that is said has a history accompanying it. If you want to see this dynamic for yourself, try convincing your spouse, your kids or a family member of a new idea you are passionate about, that you feel they should adopt. Watch them look sceptical or dismiss it. Resistance is more likely to arise from the history of your relationships than from what you are trying to say.

In such situations, I mischievously wonder how those ideas or thoughts can be presented by others rather than directly by me. I consider who to invite to dinner or where we need to go and visit. Yes, I contrive the ways the message can be conveyed. This approach saves me an awful lot of hassle and turns life into a beautiful curation experience rather than a struggle.

I understand that this approach may seem manipulative and underhand, to some. But I would argue that our own natural subconscious biases are manipulative and underhand – and we need to bring those systems back into balance somehow. But it is important to check your intentions. What lies behind the reasons why you do anything like this?

Understand that human beings are not logical. Therefore, expecting logical responses from others is a recipe for frustration. There are smarter, more illogical ways to open dialogue and conversation that do not involve swimming upstream against human nature.

At  The Dandelion Project, we advise local activists to think about bringing in people from outside the community, to give credibility to the ideas they wish to put forward.

To date, we have brought into our community more than 100 global innovators, largely to say what local innovators are already saying. Sure, there is credibility in external experts’ global reputations or bodies of work, but there is also the added dynamic of bypassing local and human biases.

The model works time and again, taking so much frustration out of the process of change. Community catalysts like myself are actively using this approach and now informal exchange programmes are ongoing between communities. Catalysts visit each other’s communities to reinforce their ideas and provide mutual credibility.

To  succeed more easily, we are required to develop irrational solutions to irrational problems.

How can you use outside help to open doors and make change happen?

In what ways have you used this dynamic already?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, in the comments section below.

To the wonder of the illogical.


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  1. Andrew Pouteaux says

    Dear Marc, the question I asked Guruji in Parliament was “we go into society and propose change. We are resisted by the status quo. That is tension. How do we reduce it?” His answer is that we face fear and must use our efforts to convince doubters that what we propose is in their long-term benefit. My experience says that some doubters are open to the possibility of change. There I agree with Guruji. When facing the intransigent that is not effective. There any tactics are acceptable if you are convinced that you are working for good.

  2. Paul Barlow says

    So true. I think this is the classic consulting model. Using external advisors to tell your audience what you already suspect or believe. The human psyche seems to be pre-conditioned to use our stories gathered from the past to create our (often stunted) future – Escaping the past is truly liberating

    • And herein lies a problem… In my community, not only is there a strong status quo bias but there is also an explicit dislike of outside consultants coming in and telling us what to do!

  3. Same in science until things build up into a climatic kuhnesian crisis. I think the world is in a kuhnesian crissusin multiple paradigms currently.

  4. Same in science until things build up into a climatic kuhnesian crisis. I think the world is in a kuhnesian crisis in multiple paradigms currently.

  5. As has already been mentioned, this is classic case used by organisations to bring in consultants to convey the message they already knew.

  6. Joe Aston says

    ‘What lies behind the reasons why you do anything like this?

    Understand that human beings are not logical.’

    Is this a matter of the reasons behind the reasons?

    I understood ‘understanding’ them meant discovering the underlying coherence of things!

  7. Sebastian Hendricks says

    The problem is if the innovators are not true innovators, but actually lack behind and think their’s is a fantastic new solution which they know works otherwise, but for the system is actually a step back.

    They possibly see you as the one who does not want to change and says: “We tried this before and it did not work, what is different about your approach?”
    So you are perceived as the resistor and your arguments are often ignored.

    I think it is important to listen and take seriously those who are the strongest objectors. they often have a very valuable point to add that if taken into consideration will prevent the change to go wrong.

  8. Al-Husaine Ya'qub says

    Dear Marc,
    I think, if we must effect change in our communities, we have to walk our talk.
    It is more than mere words, we should back it up with action.

  9. An adopted Guern says

    Quite randomly, the day this post came out Marc, your name came up and the good work you are doing and your vision… in that same discussion you were proclaimed a prophet – and then I see this! Synchronicity?
    Keep up the good work and don’t let the status-quoers get you down.
    The movement is growing.

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