Introduction: The Elephant Whisperer

In his book, The Righteous Mind 1 Jonathan Haidt suggests that we are all like a rider on an elephant. The rider is our conscious mind. It is intelligent, rational, and intentional; it thinks, decides, and acts.

But, here's the problem: We lumber along, atop an enormous beast of culture, subconscious desires, assumptions, genetic predispositions, and complex webs of fears, biases, and subjective experiences and feelings. The elephant is going to go where the elephant is going to go. Our conscious mind can choose and announce all it wants, but the elephant is larger.

The Healthy Workplace Nudge tells the story of good intentions, rationality, and high levels of intelligence, all riding an impenetrable, unresponsive, and resistant leviathan. That brute has been around a very long time and is not threatened by anything the rider could imagine.

Ten years ago, I and some associates created an approach to solving unresponsive and resistant dilemmas, known as “wicked problems.” They're not wicked in a moral implication, but in the sense that they cannot be solved, only navigated. But first, we had to change conversations that were stuck. We called that process MindShift. And a MindShift has to first become an elephant whisperer.

To whisper to the elephant is to build certain triggers, chutes, and ramps into the elephant's thinking. For example, Richard Thaler, the 2017 Nobel Prize winner in economics, has captured the behavioral economics idea ...

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