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This chapter is from the book

Start Small

Small actions, over time, can lead to large persona change. In the previous section we showed how you can create new personas by anchoring them to existing personas. In that case we were using an existing persona as an anchor.

But what if you want people to make a decision or take an action and there isn’t an existing related persona you can anchor to? Can you get someone to do something that is inconsistent with an existing persona?

The answer is yes, but you have to start small. Remember my story earlier in this chapter about switching from a Windows PC persona to an Apple persona? I had a persona that I was a Windows person. If someone had started by suggesting that I become an Apple person, I would have laughed. If someone suggested I buy an Apple laptop, I would have said no. All these requests were too large. My persona was “I am a Windows person.” It’s unlikely that I would make a big switch from “I am a Windows person” to “I am an Apple person” in one leap. If we want people to make big changes like this, we have to start with small actions.

What does small mean? Small is an action that, even though it’s inconsistent with an existing persona, doesn’t set off alarm bells. A small action request doesn’t make me feel that I’m going against an existing persona.

If the action is small, it’s possible for people to take an action that is inconsistent with a strong, existing persona. Once they take that action, they actually will adjust their persona a little to fit the new action they just took.

When we take a small action that’s inconsistent with an existing persona, it actually starts a new persona. We probably aren’t aware that this has happened. But now that the new persona exists, the next thing we’re asked to do along those same lines will fit the new persona, and it will be easier for us to continue to take action consistent with this new, revised persona.

If you ask people to take small actions, then you can use this small commitment/stair-step approach to create a brand new persona. If you want someone to take action, you need to first get a commitment to something small. It can be something that fits with one of their existing personas, or something that’s inconsistent with an existing persona. The more inconsistent it is, the smaller the action and commitment need to be.

For example, if Corinne thinks of herself as “someone who gives to charity,” you might be able to get her to donate money and an hour or two of her time for the charity you’re promoting. But if she thinks of herself as “someone who has pulled myself up like everyone should do,” then you’ll need to start really small. Instead of asking for both money and volunteer action, you’ll have to start with just one of those.

Whether you’re asking people to do something that fits with an existing persona or not, if you get people to take an action, even a small one, that action can lead to larger actions later on.

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