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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 13-Jul-14


Sunday 13-July-14

The winkler's dilemma

Imagine you are a part of a town planning team and need to get people out of their houses and into new accommodation, as the area where they are living is being redeveloped. How would you go about this? This job of getting people out of their houses has been called 'winkling' and the band Genesis wrote a particularly scathing song about this many years ago.

Perhaps you would talk up the new location and all the advantages of the new housing. Perhaps you would offer incentives to move. These are typically done. In fact a common scenario is where some people delay and refuse. A dilemma here is that the more they push back, the more desperate you get, and the the more you end up offering to get them to move. In the end, you can still end up with one or two tree-huggers and it has been known for huge developments to be built around one small house.

This dilemma has been faced in China, where an interesting reversal was used. Those who moved first were given the nicest houses and reasonable financial payments. However, the longer you took to agree to move, the less you got, until the last to leave were unceremoniously kicked out of their houses, got the worst new accommodation and received no compensation payments at all.

Yes, you may say, but we're not in China (unless you are, of course) and things are different around here. But that's not the point. Rather than dismiss the Chinese approach, we can find useful ideas there for creating change, perhaps in an organisational situation. The basic principle is to give bigger rewards to those who go first. Early people may have to cope with teething problems (which is one reason others want to leave it to later) and it seems reasonable that they get some advantage for this. The sliding scale of benefit also encourages later people to get on the bus as they look around them and conclude that even late is better than later. Whenever you get on the bus, you will always be competing with the people around you as even the person just in front of you gets more benefits. And as with any laggards, you will probably need a coercive sweep to get the last few on board, but by then they will have little options and less support for dragging their heels.

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