How Bogotá Completely Changed (And Its Lessons For You) Part 2

[Read Bogotá part one for more awesomeness about Bogotá Change and Switch.]

The Carrot Law

Mockus wasn't finished. There were 70 homicides for every 100,000 people - far, far too high.

Instead of trying to confront the whole populous with PSAs, instead of confronting the symptoms by increasing penalties for public intoxication, he simply halted the problem at its source.

Mockus sent out the mandate: Bars must close at 1am. Fewer drunks. Less drunk. In bed earlier.

He called it The Carrot Law - slang for someone who doesn't smoke for drink. And it worked.

Likewise, the Heath brothers assert the power of small changes in Switch. And that these small changes can have a huge impact.

"It's a theme we've seen again and again - big changes come from a succession of small changes. It's OK if the first changes seem almost trivial...With each step, the Elephant [your emotional urge] feels less scared and less reluctant, because things are working." (page 147)

Other tactics complimented The Carrot Law. Police were reeducated in non-violent tactics - not broad "interactions" as a whole, but each small interaction with citizens.

In addition to violence in the community, Mockus also focused on violence originating in the home. Children were encouraged to report offenders in their own families and taught to direct their anger at inanimate object.

The belief in the administration was that violence in the home was just repeated in the streets. This was a full-scale, city-wide re-direction of aggression.

Maybe it sounded crazy went it started. But in the 4 years under Mockus, the number of deaths was reduced by 1/3 and kept going down afterwards.

Enrique Penalosa - A Businessman For Urban Design

Mayors in Bogotá are restricted to one term, so after Mockus, newly party-less Enrique Penalosa became the city's second independent mayor.

Unlike the professorial Mockus, Penalosa was a businessman. But he'd promised to continue the work Mockus began.

Traffic volume was still a problem and Penalosa was pressured to build expensive elevated highways. But that wouldn't have fixed the problem - just moved the problem into the sky.

Instead, he urged rejection of the expensive elevated highways and, instead, poured that money into both improving public transportation as well as completely altering the highways.

When he started, public transportation fought for space amongst the cars and trucks. But in Penalosa's plan, the car lanes became bus lanes. And the buses were refurbished into beautiful modern vehicles.

You could still drive a car, but it'd be even more crowded than before, as you were pushed to the side lanes. And as you're baking in your car, thinking about the gas money you're burning, you'd look over to the bus lanes, gliding along in comfort. Pretty persuasive, don't you think?

Penalosa wasn't cracking down or forbidding anything. Instead, he smoothed the path he wanted people to go on.

People aren't bad; they just usually take the easier route. In this case, quite literally, the easiest route was by bus.

The Heaths cite another executive changing different behavior through similar means.

"'We're taught to focus on incentives by our business background,' say Bregman [a successful change agent]. 'Or even our parents: "Do this or you won't get your allowance!"' But executives - and parents - often have more tools than they think they have. If you change the path, you'll change the behavior." (page 185)

In just 36 months, the Penalosa administration went from idea to the first fleet on the road. The result: less traffic, less pollution, and less class conflict (between those with cars and those without).

Now, 1.6M Bogotáns travel by public transport every day and another 400,000 use their bikes. Overall, traffic has decreased by 22%.

Can't Argue With Results

Mockus, the professor. Penalosa, the businessman. Two very different men working toward their goals through very unusual means.

But you can't argue with the results. These days, 98.5% of kids in Bogotá go to school. Since 1994, homocide dropped 70%.

The tactics outlined in Bogotá Change and Switch work. And they can create change in your life too.

The most important lesson in my mind is that these were men who believed that change was possible - they believed it fundamentally, deep into their bones.

The Heaths call it a "growth mindset." (page 164) No matter the name - and no matter how cheesy it sounds sometimes - the first step in creating change is believing it's possible.

How are you going to create change? Which of these lessons resonate with you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

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How Bogotá Completely Changed (And Its Lessons For You) Part 1

A city in ruins. Rampant corruption. All systems - political, social, judicial - broken.

But, as it turns out, not beyond repair.

You simply must watch the documentary Bogotá Change. It tells the story of how one of the most crime-ridden, downtrodden, disbelieving cities made a transformation - in less than a decade! - to a city on the rise. (For a limited time, this movie is free on Comcast - On Demand > TV Entertainment > Sundance Channel. Watch it.)

Many of the ideas that started working for Bogotá in 1994 are the same as those outlined in the recent book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

At their core, both the book and the movie describe how amazing leaders created real change. But each also contains lessons for ways in which you can create change within your own life as well.

The rest of this post will list some of these ideas. But a simple blog post isn't enough. Read the book. Watch the movie.

And then, shake things up for yourself.

"Crazy" Antanas Mockus, His Superhero Suit, And Simple Problems

Antanas Mockus - Bogotá's first-ever independent mayor - was...not a typical politician. He was thrust into the spotlight when he mooned his university, for instance (with a slight nod to goatse, if you watch carefully). He also fought back physically against protesters at a debate - literally swinging punches. This guy was friggin' nuts.

But he was right about a lot as well. He put the philosophy of his academic life into action. He said, flat out, that he wanted to change people's morality. While he might misbehave, he was unshakably moral, striving for honesty in every action. Through this morality, he was able to change his country's behavior.

"I think that he was very clear that through education...that if he educated people, if people were behaving in a different way, then the city would transform itself." -Guillermo Penalosa, Director of Parks & Recreation

How did Mockus change behavior? For one, he dressed up in a superhero suit before publicly picking up garbage and painting over graffiti.

Much like Malcolm Gladwell explained in The Tipping Point in reference to graffiti elimination and fare-jumping stoppage in the New York City train system, Mockus fixed these small, but very public, elements.

As the Heath brothers explain, leaders create big change "by formulating solutions that were strikingly smaller than the problems they were intended to solve." (page 71) Change agents send the message that these small (bad) behaviors are simply not accepted here, which leads logically to other, bigger, behavioral changes.

And when these small behaviors were improved, people feel better about themselves not just as individuals, but as a collective people. Mockus frequently mentions how "we" behave.

The Heath's concur. "[The science] shows us that people are receptive to developing new identities, that identities 'grow' from small beginnings." (page 161) Mockus knew this. Create small change and link it to people's identity of themselves.

Soon, it became known that Bogotáns didn't disrespect their city by leaving their trash around or writing graffiti on the walls. And that meant the public space was to be cared for. That's how big change started to happen.

Traffic, A Thumbs-Down Sign, And Mimes

Mockus wasn't finished. Traffic in Bogota was another problem.

Citizens ignored traffic laws. Chaos ruled the roads. And the traffic cops were even more morally corrupt than average.

Mockus started small. He gave drivers a white "thumbs-up" sign and a red "thumbs-down" sign. How could this solve the traffic problem?

Drivers complimented other drivers by flashing a thumbs-up when that driver obeyed the law. When a driver didn't follow the rules, they saw a lot of red thumbs pointing down.

It's not that people didn't know the rules. It's just that there was no societal pressure to obey them. Bogotans were taking the easiest path (literally).

Mockus didn't stop there. He employed traffic mimes. (Yes, you read that correctly: traffic mimes.)

These mimes scripted proper behavior. They stood in front of trucks attempting to cut in line. They walked elderly citizens across the street, in front of cars that could have plowed through the pedestrians.

Scripting behavior works and the Heaths know it:

"Ambiguity is the enemy. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves." (page 53-54)

I think it goes even further. Mimes are like children. They're non-confrontational; they can script behavior without raising ire. I think that's a huge component in their successful campaign.

This exercise showed that even the least infraction of the law would no longer be tolerated. It is thought that the mimes had an effect on the level of violence decreasing in the country at around this time.

Not Done Yet

I hope you've enjoyed part one of this study of Bogotá and Switch. Tomorrow, I'll provide a few more examples and reveal numbers describing the effect of these campaigns.

Please tune in later this week to read part two. Subscribing is a great way to ensure you won't miss it!

Update: Here's part 2!

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Book Review: Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive


Authors Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin, and Robert Cialdini provide what they promise: 50 case studies where science determined the difference between "yes" and "no" responses.

The book feels like a quick read - the 50 chapters are short and the writing style familiar. But Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive stands out for two reasons: everything is backed up by hard data and there is a prominent focus on the ethical use of these studies throughout the book.

Gimme The Facts, Ma'am

Remember how much I liked Groundswell? Yes! might not have quite as much data, but it comes close. It isn't bogged down with numbers, but the authors are very clear about the research and testing that goes into their conclusions.

For instance, let's imagine that your business relies on your employees to make deals with other people. In one of the Yes! tests, when one group of test subjects was asked to mimic an negotiator's physical behavior, they reached a deal 67% of the time. Think about your imaginary business for a second. How much would a 10% decrease in deal-making hurt you? What about 20%? Then, when I tell you that non-mimicking pairs of negotiators reached a deal only 12.5% of the time - a difference of more than 54% - you might start believing in the author's persuasive techniques (page 135).

Giving Marketers A Good Name?

The other major reason why I encourage you read this book is because the ethical ramifications of our work is never hidden away (also making a good gift for college students or young marketers learning the ropes).

They advocate that not only is unethical marketing morally distasteful, but that it's less profitable too. In one example, the authors contend,

"Often the first influence strategy that comes to mind will not be the most ethical - or the wisest, as was ethical persuaders, we can take comfort in knowing that those who do choose to wield social influence as a destructive weapon, rather than a constructive tool, will inevitably end up pointing that weapon at themselves and shooting themselves in the foot" (page 220).

We are in more desperate times than usual, but we are also reaping the fruits of social media marketing where, improbably, the good guys (Zappos, others) really can win.

Buy It Or Skip It?

This isn't a perfect book by any means. A few of the stories are boring, a little of the humor falls flat. But these aren't damning failures by any means.

I'd say buy it. The hard cover is usually under $20 and the soft cover even less. It's perfect for a business trip and quick enough to be read in a weekend. Pick up Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive.

There are a lot of airy, feel-good marketing books out there and they have their place (usually for marketers new to online or social media marketing). But the 10% who have been dabbling for years in this arena don't need those types of books. They need Yes! types of books.

P.S.: If you enjoyed this review, you might also like my recent review of Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing and my list of the top 5 gift books for marketers.

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I Finally Get Seth Godin - Eating The Meatball Sundae

I admit I used to poo-poo Seth Godin. In my business, that's akin to snubbing Jesus. But I never understood why so many marketers loved his writing. I'd read Seth's blog, caught himgodin.jpg on several podcasts, and read his articles, but I didn't get him until today. My problem with Godin was the fact that everything he said sounded like common sense. "You need to learn the new marketing before applying it to a business." DUH. "Your business might not be right for the new marketing." SNORE.

Sure, Godin is full of common sense about marketing - he should be! But it didn't seem that useful to me. (Not that I'm a genius, but I felt his suggestions were awfully apparent if you just paid attention.)

Here's what I didn't understand

What I didn't understand about Seth Godin is the sheer scope of his common sense-iness. Everything that comes out of his mouth is good marketing advice and after listening to his new audiobook Meatball Sundae, I understand that this long form is the way for me to appreciate his work. You see, listening to so much good (common sense) advice illuminates how much crap advice marketers hear every day.

Godin is able to not only create lists of handy ideas, but he's able to simplify how we do things and why. The real-life stories he tell serve to give a concreteness to his work, like little voices saying, "I told you so."

Should you read it? It depends.

However, for as good as Godin is, I cannot say that I'd recommend this book or his other work to everyone. His stuff is must-read for marketers, period. But I honestly don't think individuals in other professions would get anywhere near as much from his books. I just don't think it translates as well as other marketing-type books.

I recommend books like Made to Stick because readers in all fields will garner something from that information, be they fire-fighters, stock brokers, or professors (I'm lookin' at you, MMB). While I think non-marketers will be entertained by Godin's wit and stories, I don't think they will end up using his advice in their daily lives. And the point of this blog is to emphasize marketing and marketing tactics for ordinary folks.

Sorry Seth, I can't give it a 100% recommendation. But I'm sure you'll understand. It's just common sense.

The Black Swan - Marketing Tool or Schlock?

Over Thanksgiving, I started reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (Ironically, I was also reading 109 East Palace by Jennet Conant about the Manhattan Project, perhaps one of modern history's more poignant Black Swans, itself.) A Black Swan is "a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random." Taleb gives examples of Google's success and 9/11. Fine, this is all terribly interesting. And I should mention that I am only about 60 pages in, but I would love to hear from all of you whether you think this is a worthwhile book to spend my time on and whether it is appropriate for marketers.

First, as a marketer, the sheer volume of prick-itude is distracting. Taleb comes off as a real jerk. It makes me not want to read or believe his theories (does anyone at Random House edit for assholery?). He starts the book regaling us about his snotty language and his snotty school: "Yet I recall something that felt special in the intellectual air. I attended the Free lycee that had one of the highest success rates for the French baccalaureat [pg. 5]..." His ancestors always were rich and he will always be rich: " [I]f the driver spoke skeletal English and looked particularly depressed, I'd give him a $100 bill as a tip, just to give him a little jolt and get a kick out of his surprise [pg. 39]." And his casual cruelty is amazing: "You can even include Frenchmen (but please, not too many out of consideration for the others in the group) [pg. 32]." Does it really help the reader believe the author if we have grown to hate him in such a short time? I think Taleb thought more about his grandiose theory rather than how he would market himself.

But, there are flashes when I think The Black Swan may be appropriate for marketers because of shared themes with two of the best books about marketing: The Tipping Point and The Prince.

One of the key beliefs in Taleb's book is that history makes jumps, rather than crawls. This belief is shared by The Tipping Point's Malcolm Gladwell. He writes, "Of the three, the third trait - the idea that epidemics can rise or fall in one dramatic moment - is the most important, because it is the principle that makes sense of the first two [contagiousness and that little causes can have big effects] and that permits the greatest insight into why modern change happens the way it does." Gladwell believes in it so much that it is from this idea that he draws the title of his book. I think Gladwell is a brilliant mind and if he shares something with Taleb, that inclines me to continue reading.

Another (the first?) great marketing book is Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince. If you haven't read it, go out today during your lunch hour and buy it. You will learn more about power and control in this slim book than you will anywhere else. Power and control get a bad rap - after all, as marketers we are convincing people every day and those are two pretty persuasive traits. So what does Taleb share with Machiavelli? Consider this statement:

"I discovered that it is much more effective to act like a nice guy and be 'reasonable' if you prove willing to go beyond just verbiage. You can afford to be compassionate, lax, and courteous if, once in a while, when it is least expected of you, but completely justified, you sue someone, or savage an enemy, just to show that you can walk the walk."

Really a heart-warming gent, isn't he? Compare this to Machiavelli who writes, "So any injury a prince does a man should be of such a kind that there is no fear of revenge [pg. 10, 1999 ed.]." And again, "[I]t is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot have both [pg. 71]." These are, in their core, about marketing one's self in the world. I would not be surprised if Taleb was a big fan of Machiavelli's.

I guess what I want to know today is whether I should continue reading. Taleb pisses me off to no end - to the extent that I actually trust his theories less - but this does not mean (in itself) that they are worthless. And if he shares ideals with two authors I trust for very good marketing advice, perhaps I should keep on reading. What do you think? Has anyone out there read The Black Swan? Does it become more palatable in any way?