The Walls Are Coming Down

November is National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). This post is part of my post-a-day challenge. I have picked a theme for the challenge: song titles. These songs have been featured on live albums from KEXP (an awesome alternative radio station in Seattle), so at a minimum you will hear some great music.

Whether you know it or not, your environment has a substantial impact on your behavior. If you remove all of the chairs from a room, most people will stand. If you surround yourself with people who eat healthy and care about fitness, you’ll likely find yourself making better food choices. If you are in an open space with your coworkers, you’ll be more likely to collaborate.

Are you in a position where you are trying to impact behaviors – your kid’s, your spouse’s, your coworkers’? Are you thinking about how the environment effects behaviors?

In this passage from Switch, Chip Heath helps us to see the importance of the environment on change:

According to one study of people making changes in their lives, 36% of the successful changes were associated with a move to a new location, and only 13 percent of unsuccessful changes involved a move.

Many smokers, for example, find it easier to quit when they’re on vacation, because at home, every part of their environment is loaded with smoking associations. It’s like trying to quit smoking inside a Camel advertisement – everywhere you look are reminders of the habit. There’s that drawer in the kitchen where the lighters are stashed, the clay pot on the porch that’s become an archive of ashes, the ever-present scent of smoke in the car and the closet. When the smoker goes on vacation, the environment recedes towards neutrality. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to quit, but it’s easier.

My favorite line from this is “it’s like trying to quit smoking inside a Camel advertisement.” I laugh at this, but how often have I attempted to make changes without any consideration to the surroundings or environment? (Hint: often!)

Within the last twelve months, my team has been experimenting with space. Our first experiment involved moving from the sea of cubicles that divided our team into an open space. There wasn’t really anything special that had to be done, we just asked for the walls to be taken down.

Now we are onto working on Space v2.0. Standing desk, whiteboard surface, everyone within a few feet of each others. In other words, this is Susan Cain’s, worst nightmare.

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We launched Space v2.0 a few weeks ago and have seen some great results. In addition to me dropping a few lbs, we are able to move around and collaborate more frequently.

The environment drives behaviors.

We keep secluded space when team members need to do what we call “head down” work. I’m looking forward to continuing the experiment. I can’t wait to see what we come up with for Space v3.0.

If you have a change you are going to drive, consider the environment and how it can help your change take root.