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Do you choose ‘PUSH’ or ‘PULL’ when it comes to changing someone’s mind?

Most referendums fail.

Worldwide, only about a third of referendums pass.

Mostly because referendums are decided by the people (not politicians).

And people don’t want to change.

For referendums to succeed, millions of people have to be persuaded to change. And that’s a tough ask.

So, what odds would you give a nation deciding to abandon forty-six years of economic integration, agricultural subsidies, and free trade?

What odds for the UK to give up the old way of doing things and switch to something new? Brexit.

Most polls suggested that the UK would stay in the EU. Bookmakers had betting odds at 80 percent probability of victory for the pro-EU camp.

However, Dominic Cummings knew the science of change management.

Cummings led the ‘Vote Leave’ organisation and knew that to run a ‘PUSH’ campaign would alienate voters and ‘Vote Leave’ would fail.

Instead, he chose a ‘PULL’ campaign and history was made on June 23rd 2016.


Standing still in business is a recipe for irrelevance and ruin. Change is necessary to survive and thrive. But change is hard and is often strongly resisted. People push back against change.

So, rather than use a PUSH approach to persuading people to change, adopt a PULL approach to win their hearts and minds.

Start with the 4 helping hands here or read on for the full Bitesize Business Breakthrough

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Change is hard for a reason...

People tend to do what they’ve always done.

People return to holiday destinations (and the same place on the beach!), they visit the same websites, use the same apps on their phone, go to the same restaurant and order the same food.

“An object in motion tends to stay in motion, while an object at rest tends to stay at rest.” Sir Isaac Newton on inertia.

People, teams and organisations are similarly driven by inertia. ‘Same old, same old’ largely rules people’s lives, decisions and actions because our behaviours are driven by habits.

Here's a proven solution for you

Work out what you want to change and then work out how to use the 5 PULL strategies to support your change efforts with your people.

Rather than PUSH, instead REDUCE the barriers holding change back.

Everyone has someone or something they want to change...

  • You want to change customer purchase decisions in your favour
  • You want your employees to follow better practice, show initiative and be more successful at their jobs
  • Your employees want to change your view to theirs (and get a pay rise)
  • Parents want to change their teenager’s behaviour

Here's what happens when you push for change...

People push back, they resist – you push harder and, no surprise, they push back harder.

We all react to having our freedom to choose reduced or removed. We all dig our heels in and resist.

This reactance is why people push against the loss of (changing) the status quo.

When was the last time you changed your mind because someone told you to? Chances are you resisted.

“People like to feel they have control over their choices and actions. When others threaten or restrict that freedom, people get upset… so, they push back - “Who are you to tell me... I can do whatever I want!”

Jonah Berger - 'The Catalyst.

Dominic Cummings knew all about reactance and loss aversion when he was deliberating over the Brexit campaign messaging.

Loss aversion

Cummings wrote in his blog, “we hate losing things, especially control.”

He also knew that remaining in the EU needed no explanation because people were living the status quo and had been for 46 years, why would they choose to lose all the obvious benefits of remaining in the EU?

So, Cummings bought a very British big red bus.

On the bus, he showed everyone the cost of the status quo – £350million every week. He made obvious the cost of inaction (remain) and made it emotionally powerful by suggesting it could fund the NHS.

Rather than push he gave people a choice about how to spend £350million every week – on Europe or on the NHS.

He also cleverly turned the tables on the inertia (remain the same) associated with ‘Remain’.

Framing the discussion...

The Leave campaign rallying cry started as just three words:

“Let’s take control.”

Cummings loved its simplicity.

He also knew something was missing.

He knew that people prefer to stick with things they’re already doing, rather than do something new, so he cleverly flipped things around… he added the word “back.”

“Let’s take BACK control.”

Cummings cleverly used two of the five strategies of PULL to influence people’s choice, Reactance and Endowment – see below.

STOP pushing for individual, organisational and social change within your business

START pulling people towards the change you seek for the success of your business

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Extreme change shows a better way...

Successful hostage negotiators know not to push (push backfires badly). Drugs and alcohol rehabilitation experts know not to push. Political transformation from one party to another does not happen because people are pushed. 

Instead, successful change agents act like a catalyst, easing people toward the change they seek.

"Catalysts reduce Reactance, ease Endowment, shrink Distance, alleviate Uncertainty, and find Corroborating Evidence. Taken together, that forms an acronym, REDUCE. Which is exactly what great catalysts do. They REDUCE barriers. They change minds and incite action by reducing barriers to change.”

Jonah Berger - 'The Catalyst.

A summer camp leads to peace...

There’s nothing remarkable about a bunch of teenagers spending three weeks together at a lakeside summer camp. Until you realise they are a mix of Egyptian, Israeli, and Palestinian teens selected by their Governments.

'Seeds of Peace', as the camp is known, is significantly responsible for sponsoring (being the catalyst for) the attitude change between two opposing cultures. A change leading to the first face-to-face agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993.

Some 6,000 Seeds of Peace graduates from the programme run regular, regional programmes in areas of conflict world-wide.

“Some teens are from the settlements, orthodox in their thinking if not in their religious views. Many are militant true believers, unshakable in their opinions. “I walked into camp with a lot of hatred,” said Habeeba, a young Egyptian who went through the program. “I wanted to prove a point and walk away. I wasn’t looking to listen or learn.”

Jonah Berger - 'The Catalyst'

Jonah Berger in his book ‘The Catalyst - How to change anyone's mind’ uses the story of the Seeds of Peace summer camp for teenagers to showcase the 4 pull strategies at work.

Seeds of Peace doesn’t push Palestinians to be friends with Israelis or list more reasons why one side should trust the other.

They don’t make campers sit through endless lectures or implore them to do what’s ‘right’. Instead, they identify the key barriers preventing change and try to ease them.

Understand and use the 5 strategies below and you can achieve the transformation of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours you seek in your business.

5 strategies of PULL for successful change...

REACTANCE - When pushed, people push back

So rather than telling people what to do, or trying to persuade, catalysts encourage people to convince themselves.

Rather than forcing campers toward it, Seeds of Peace lay out a series of exercises and experiences that let campers pick their own path to changing their views.

ENDOWMENT - People resist moving from the status quo

To ease this attachment, catalysts expose the costs of inaction and help
people realise that doing nothing isn’t as costless as it seems.

One Seeds of Peace challenge is a high-rope course. Campers are pairedup,
one is blindfolded and has to climb a tall telephone pole and follow guide
ropes thirty feet above the ground. Fail to trust each other so high up and a fall is happening (the cost of inaction).

Cummings showed the weekly cost of being in the EU - £350million every

Can you be the catalyst and showthe loss of profits and job security from
not adopting a new technology? Or get the team to compare and contrast
different technologies so they see for themselves the hidden costs of staying
the same?

DISTANCE - Take small steps, shrink the distance

When opposing views are too extreme, people don’t listen to each other. Two perspectives that are too far away are instantly and wholeheartedly rejected.

Instead of making a big ask right away, Seeds of Peace work to shrink the distance.

Rather than expecting opposing sides to be friends on day one, the camp starts by asking for less. Just sleep in the same cabin. Eat at the same table. Engage in the same activities and begin a dialogue. These activities help switch the field and find an unsticking point that engages both sides.

How do you get customers or team to take a small step towards the change you seek? What if some of the (more enthusiastic) team assess the tech you want to adopt? Perhaps when bringing in a new team-member, bring them in gradually to get people used to the changes?

UNCERTAINTY - Doubt and ambiguity slows the rate of change

To get people to un-pause, catalysts alleviate uncertainty. Easier to try, means more likely to buy.

Supermarkets lay a new cheese on the counter-top to tempt you to try and buy. Online stores make postage free for goods and returns. Test driving a car is essential for car sales.

CORROBORATING EVIDENCE - Lack of proof reduces willingness to change

Some things need more proof. Catalysts find corroborating evidence, using multiple sources to help overcome the translation problem.

By giving campers multiple interactions with different group members, they provide corroborating evidence. One Palestinian girl making friends with one Israeli girl may feel like – “she’s not like those other Israelis/Palestinians. She’s different.” But when each has a positive interaction with multiple Israelis and multiple Palestinians, it’s harder not to shift attitudes toward them as a group. Meaning that she’s much more likely to trust other Israelis/Palestinians she meets in the future.

Drug rehabilitation interventions have the drug user meet all the people they care about at the same time with all of them sharing the emotional and physical costs they are experiencing, providing corroborating evidence.

What can you do to have multiple sources of evidence show up at the same time for the changes you want your business and your teams to make?

4 helping hands for you…

Hostage negotiators face far more difficult change situations than we are ever likely to experience.

These negotiators do not push hard, instead, they work out what’s preventing the change of mind and change of behaviour needed for resolution. They use less energy not more.

They REDUCE the roadblocks to change.


Stop pushing for change


Instead PULL for change


Work out which of the 5 barriers are preventing the change you seek – REDUCE


Remove the barriers that stand in the way of the change you seek


"Why should I have to be responsible for cleverly using pull rather than push strategies - why don't people simply do what's best?"

Your version of ‘best’ isn’t necessarily your customer's or your team’s version of the ‘best’. We’re all anchored to our version of the status quo, we’re also determined to preserve our ‘right’ to choose (and will fight to protect our autonomy).

You can choose to push your version of best if you wish but what’s the cost of doing this? Your people push back.

What do you do when your people push back?

Push harder. Which results in even more push back (or your people leave at even greater cost to your business!).

So, if you’re serious about successful change shouldn’t you take PULL strategies seriously?

"We can't hold a 3-week summer camp, we need practical change next steps"

Seeds of Change work hard to identify the key barriers preventing change and work on reducing or removing those barriers.

You can do the same (without the summer camp if you wish!).

Check out the download tools for a checklist of strategies for each aspect of the ‘REDUCE’ pull strategies that you can put to work.


“Shouldn't everyone at least give change a chance?”

You’d think so yes. But uncertainty and a sense of extreme distance make the appeal of the status quo seem so appealing. And people feel SO comfortable with the status quo.

Focusing on small pigeon steps and trialling the the proposed change make for strong pull strategies. Making the trial a short time frame (but long enough for people to get attached to the new normal) will shrink the distance to the change.

Check out the downloadable tools for extra videos, resources and a few exercises you can use to help build your skills for pull strategies. You’ll then be on the path to getting greater and faster acceptance of the change your business needs to survive and thrive.

Your 'Change People's Mind' checklist:


Stop pushing for change

When you push for change, people push back, they resist. Push harder and, no surprise, they push back harder.

The cost of pushing people to change is high and hidden.



PULL for change

Be a catalyst for change by removing the handbrakes and barriers to change


Work out which of the 5 barriers are preventing the change you seek - REDUCE

Reduce Reactance, ease Endowment, shrink Distance, alleviate Uncertainty, and find Corroborating Evidence


Remove the barriers that stand in the way of the change you seek

Work out ways with your team to reduce or remove the barriers to change.

Bring 2 or more of the 5 to work for you and you’ll become an unstoppable catalyst for change in your business

As always, it’s not knowing about a business breakthrough that works, it’s about putting it to work! Use the downloadable tools to help you get change working in your business.

Want to know more?

To discover more about how make change easier in your business we recommend reading this fascinating book.

The Catalyst. How to change anyone's mind

Jonah Berger


Click the button below and you'll find a selection of practical support tools to help you identify the purpose in your business and how you can 'lead with purpose'


This report is shared by

Luke Smith FCA
Luke Smith FCA, Director


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