Sitting is the new smoking & what else you can learn about change management from cardboard boxes & elephants

Hey, have you entered the interactive contest from last post yet? No? Whatcha waiting for.  Head here to enter.  It’s fast, fun & easy.

Liz Paterson, an intern with UN-Habitat here in Nairobi, knows a thing or two about small, quick elephants.

The Heath brothers, in their fabulous book Switch – how to change things when change is hard – write about how we all have elephants a.k.a. our feelings & motivations to do with a change.  Rather than solely addressing facts, logic & information when we’re trying to change something, it’s more effective to deal with our elephants.

When I work with clients, I specifically encourage them to find their quick, small elephants.

Translation: look for a couple of small things you can do easily & quickly that will help motivate people towards embracing a change.

Which, is exactly what Liz Paterson did recently.

Liz, who is on her way to getting a Masters in Public Health, says that sitting is the new smoking.  That’s why, when she arrived in her U.N. office, she promptly put a large cardboard box under her computer, which gets her standing for several hours a day.

Yes, a large cardboard box.

Turns out it’s good for her health & easy to do.  (For more information about how your chair is your enemy see the New York Times article by Olivia Judson.)

Turns out too, that other interns have followed.  If you were to walk down the hallway with open offices near Liz’s desk, you’d see a number of large cardboard boxes under others’ computers.

So what did Liz do that made for quick, easy elephants?

– the change was easy to describe & had a high motivational factor (sitting is the new smoking)

– the change was easy to do (simply stick a box under your computer)

– the change was quick to start (grab a box & stand up)

– the change was easy to replicate (Liz has extra cardboard boxes beside her desk for who ever wants them – see the photo below)

Trying to change something?  Look to Liz for inspiration & find your own quick, small elephants.



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