It’s A Prospector World

Surveys of 15 countries representing the majority of the global population show that it’s a predominantly Prospector world.

To understand more about the ‘three worlds’ of these three ‘Maslow Groups’ see my book What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers.

Taken together, the 15 countries make up 59.3% of the global population (they are Kenya, China, India, South Africa, Russia, Thailand, Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, UK, Australia and the US) . Each survey included over 2000 people, nationally representative for age and sex, and was fielded by GMI. The surveys were conducted by CDSM (Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing) between 2011 and 2015 as part of a larger study with Campaign Strategy for Greenpeace.

the fifteen countries as a percentage of world population

The average proportion of Prospectors (Outer Directed) across the 15 samples is 55%.  An average 20% are Settlers (Security Driven) and 25% are Pioneers (Inner Directed).

percentage of prospectors, settlers and pioneers in the fifteen countries

global population by Maslow group

Above: ‘global’ population by Maslow Group – it’s mostly a Prospector World

As has been discussed in previous Three Worlds blogs, the predominance of Prospectors in many societies has important implications for campaigners, most of whom (especially in developed countries) tend to be Pioneers and to make intuitive Pioneer-type assumptions about other people.  Pioneers have a high sense of self agency, like complexity and debating issues, and some disapprove of people for being aspirational, even for wanting to have fun.  But that’s the way most of the world is and for their ’causes’ to have mass appeal they need to communicate them in ways that offer success, fun, looking good and achieving the best, and positive action rather than self-denial, if they are to attract what in most countries is ‘the mainstream’.

proportions of Maslow Groups in 15 countries (ranked by Prospector).

Above: proportions of Maslow Groups in 15 countries (ranked by Prospector).

The CDSM model splits out four distinct Values Modes within the Maslow Groups, each with a distinct motivational profile (see Campaign Strategy links to explanations of the Values Modes).

The survey results and global averages of the Values Modes are shown below:

global averages of the Values Modes

 

global averages of the Values Modes

Across the sample average, the two largest Values Modes are the GD Golden Dreamers and the NP Now People, both Prospector.  The former have recently transitioned from Settler World and are still quite conventional in their aspirations, although they are very motivated to find a quick route to acquiring the symbols of success.  The latter are much more confident and more interested in what Pioneers are doing, and exert the greatest influence over the other Prospector Values Modes, including the GDs.  The Now People are the arbiters of fashion.

Now People tend to look favourably on many ‘good causes’ but are often put off from engaging by the way that campaign groups try to approach or treat them.  Pioneer campaigners may even inadvertently drive Prospectors out of their own organizations by trying to make them more ‘worthy’, when it is often these people they need the most in order to engage the public.

The third largest Values Mode is the TX Transcenders.  This Values Mode tends to dominate amongst those actually taking action on ‘good causes’, especially where they are ‘global’ or challenging.  It is the Values Mode with the highest sense of self agency, and has greatest potential to act as a bridge for Pioneer ideas to the Prospectors but this is not always realized.

This is the first time these data have been published in this form and it is believed to be the only survey of its kind.

There is only one European country in the series above and CDSM plans to conduct a survey of more European countries in the next twelve months.  For more on that and for any methodological enquiries, contact Pat Dade at CDSM.

Thanks to CDSM and Greenpeace for permission to use these data.

Want to know your own Maslow Group and Values Mode ? Take the free CDSM online survey

headshot of Chris Rose

Chris Rose is an ecologist and communications and campaigns consultant based in the UK, a former director at Greenpeace, campaigner with WWF International and Friends of the Earth, author and host of Campaign Strategy, a free campaign planning website. This article was originally posted at ‘Three Worlds’ on Campaign Strategy, and has been republished with the author’s permission.

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Strategic Reasons Why Values Matching is a Good Idea

square box not fitting in round hole

Image credit

Different framings for action on climate change and nature/environment gain more or less traction across the UK population depending on whether they mainly just appeal to Pioneers, or also to Prospectors and Settlers. This could be described as uplift for propositions, gained by ‘values matching’.

However some pundits, academics and campaigners argue that matching action-propositions to people’s values is not a good idea. For example writer George Monbiot has recently published two blogs (http://bit.ly/1pbFLum and http://bit.ly/1ucn5f3) in The Guardian, both based on the work of group ‘Common Cause’, which takes this position.

They (invariably Pioneers) are concerned that it might reinforce ‘the wrong’ (Prospector or Settler) values. They fear that this, in turn, might affect ‘society’s values’. The ‘wrong values’ they identify are typically about a desire for power, acquiring material wealth, and ‘self-interest’. Better then to try and change people’s values so that they are ‘good’: altruistic, global, benevolent, universalist?  From this mind-set, matching offers or asks to people’s values is a bad idea if it includes the ‘bad’ values. They do not accept that, as Saul Alinsky famously said, ‘with very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons’, and that ‘it is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason – this is a fight with a windmill. It then follows that they do not accept that the right outcomes can sometimes only be obtained by getting support of people who do not share your own values.

I do not agree and have written about why in previous newsletters. This can become a tedious and tangled debate. Common Cause and their supporters like to talk about ‘extrinsic’ and ’intrinsic’ values, whereas CDSM divides any population into three Maslow Groups (Settler – Security Drive; Prospector, Outer Directed; Pioneer, Inner Directed, and within them, 12 Values Modes). It is not always clear whether we are talking about the same thing and certainly not in the same terms. Both sides acknowledge the work of Shalom Schwartz but draw different conclusions from it. CDSM’s approach is mainly empirical; Common Cause is more theoretical. We believe the evidence suggests Maslow was right and that if people meet their unmet needs they change (in improving conditions/ good life experiences, from Settler to Prospector to Pioneer). Common Cause seems to think not. 

In addition, Common Cause seems to advocate talking about values to change them, whereas we have found this will tend to lead to disagreements which entrench values differences rather than change them. We have found that people are largely unaware of their motivational values: they feel like ‘common sense’. Common Cause wants to talk about values to change behaviours. We think that you cannot do that very easily, if at all, and it is more effective to change the behaviours. And so on.

Myself, the people at Common Cause and Mr Monbiot are all environmentalists. We probably have a similar idea of how the world really ought to be in terms of environmental quality and impacts. We just have a different view about how to get there.

All that said, I usually try to avoid this debate for two reasons. First, unlike some of the potential antagonists, nobody is paying me to take part in it and I can’t afford the time. Second, the main proponents of the ‘improve the people’ argument are themselves articulating a set of values most clearly expressed in the Concerned Ethical Values Mode, and no amount of analytical evidence is likely to make any difference. Although they might not accept it, what I have seen of the many research projects we have conducted using the CDSM ‘Values Modes’ system convinces me that they are driven by a largely unconscious need to find ‘ethical clarity’ and so will want to reject any route to change which is not ethically the best possible option.

I’d suggest there are a number of practical strategic reasons why values-matching is a fundamentally sensible strategy in the circumstances faced by most campaign groups today.

1. The Maths

Most campaign groups are dominated by Pioneers (Inner Directed) and are operating in societies where the majority of people do not share their values. In China, for example, over 70% of the population measured by the CDSM values segmentation (which includes use of Shalom Schwartz’s internationally verified question-set) is Outer Directed i.e. in CDSM’s parlance, Prospectors, which groups like Common Cause and advocates like George Monbiot would see as having ‘extrinsic values’.

This ‘Maslow Group’ is the largest in every one of ten societies we have surveyed for Greenpeace, except the US.

The ‘Pioneers’ on the other hand are in a minority in every country and in all cases (except the US) make up less than a third of the population. To take a rudimentary example, if there was a need to gain majority support for an idea, just appealing to ‘Pioneer’ values such as self-direction, universalism, benevolence, ethics and a global view of the importance of nature, would be a recipe for failure. There are of course many instances in which a majority of some sort is a desirable objective.

2. Signals of Feasibility

In democracies, and indeed in societies which are not ‘properly’ democratic but where rulers and decision-makers are aware that they need to have or appear to have ‘popular support’, many important policy decisions depend on showing that an idea is broadly supported, whether actively so, or simply accepted without much opposition. Achieving this typically means going beyond the Pioneers.

In contrast, generating a values-divided public debate generally sends the opposite message: that this is an intractable problem. Instead campaigns need to generate signs that the change they advocate is feasible, achievable and so offer decision-makers some sort of popularity reward.

3. The Decision-makers

Not all decision-makers are Pioneers. In the UK, for example, most people working full time for companies or other organisations are Prospectors. Nor are all politicians or officials Pioneers. For an idea to feel right and work for them, it needs to resonate with their values. Being told they are wrong-people and should adopt your demands based on your conflicting values is not likely to work but it will give them confidence that your proposal is wanting.

4.  The Doers

Contrary to what some Pioneers may assume, some of those most likely to act to support the changes they want are not Pioneers but Prospectors. Of these, the Now People Prospectors are the ‘bridge’ for new ideas or behaviours between the Pioneers and the Prospectors: they pick up these ideas from the ‘Transcender’ Pioneers.

This transfer is the point at which ‘mainstreaming’ takes place (as an idea becomes fashionable before becoming ‘normal’).  A good example in the UK is renewable energy. For decades almost the only people actively advocating or adopting it (eg. solar) were Pioneers. Now it is being mainstreamed by Prospectors, in businesses such as Gentoo Group (whose values we have surveyed – it is a mainly Prospector but very ‘green’ company with 27,000 solar panels on 2,000 properties in Sunderland and plans for 3,000 more solar homes). While Pioneers tend to agree with ‘good things’ but are so interested in debate and ideas that they may not do much to implement them, Prospectors are the principal doers and implementers of change. Once change mainstreams, Settlers too take it up. So, for example, you can now find homes sporting both solar pv and UKIP posters (UKIP’s core voters are Settler), like this one.

5. Outcomes

Campaigns should be planned backwards from analysing situations and identifying a strategic objective, and then working out a critical path of changes that will get you there. It’s along this path that the need to engage particular audiences, in ways that work with them, arises. Campaigns should not be projected forwards with rhetoric and polemic to advocate a desired outcome.

Many of the ‘moral hazard’ outcomes posited by critics of values-matching only arise if there is no strategy for change beyond advocacy and proselytizing. In reality, rather few campaigns can be won that way. An instrumental campaign built around a strategic critical path should have an objective which, once achieved, makes a strategic difference: a political decision between countries in the form of a treaty; an increase in the sales of a ‘good’ technology to the point where market forces make it inevitable that it will become dominant; or a change in infrastructure or a system that then determines which behaviours are possible or likely. In such cases, the motivations behind the actions become, at best, secondary.

6. Time and Resources

Even if it were true that people strongly driven to achieve power and material wealth were permanently locked into that values set, and even if you could ‘change’ these people without them meeting those needs (neither of which we think is true), campaigners dealing with urgent problems often do not have the time or resources to adopt a change-through-changing-the-people strategy. We have actually measured the values of the populations noted above. In China there are 26.4% who are ‘Golden Dreamers’, the people who most espouse the material + power values that some campaigners see as very ‘wrong’. In India 29.3% are Golden Dreamers and in the UK 15%. In all three countries they are the largest single Values Mode. This means that there are about 360m Chinese and a similar number of Indians who some see as having very much the ‘wrong values’.

Even if there was a way to ‘change’ these people (and some advocate 1:1 encounters), it seems somewhat unlikely that campaign organisations have the means to do so. Take for example, getting a car, or a ‘better’ car. For Golden Dreamers this is likely to be a priority. Persuading Indian Golden Dreamers to want their ‘next car to be an electric one’ rather than a fossil-fuel driven one is not difficult: we know from asking them that 68% say ‘yes’ (probably because ‘electric’ is now ‘fashionable’, seen as desirable and a sign of success). Persuading them to forgo a car altogether would be a very different matter but, from a climate-change point of view, electric cars are a change that the world needs to see, and quickly.

Finally, it sometimes seems that those opposed to ‘values-matching’ think that it means advocating that people should consume more or be more ‘materialistic’. The examples given in ‘Broadening the Appeal of Environmental Action through Values-Framing Uplift’ show that this need not be the case in practice. 

For example, the proposition ‘It is vital to introduce young children to nature’ out-scores ‘we should all care for nature’ by attracting more agreement from Settlers and Prospectors (ie. better matches their values). But this is because it is ‘about children’ and being a (good/better) parent rather than just promoting ‘nature’ and implying personal action. It is not gaining power or material wealth which is the promise here but social success and reinforcement of self-identity. For these groups, being-a-parent does this whereas global ethical universalist care for nature does not.

Similarly, ‘There’s still time to address climate change if we all make quite small and easy changes’ better matches Prospector and Settler values than just asking them to be ‘bothered’ and ‘concerned’ about the environment because agreement requires less self-agency. That’s another way to better match Prospector and Settler values but also does not require endorsement of ‘materialism’.

The main implication for Pioneers is one of self-restraint. Values matching requires them not to lecture or harangue Prospectors and Settlers to see things as Pioneers do, for example to embrace ‘huge and difficult’ changes with little evidence that they can be achieved, or to put ‘nature’ before their children.

headshot of Chris Rose

Chris Rose is an ecologist and communications and campaigns consultant based in the UK, a former director at Greenpeace, campaigner with WWF International and Friends of the Earth, author and host of Campaign Strategy, a free campaign planning website. This article was originally published in Campaign Strategy’s June 2014 Newsletter and has been republished with the author’s permission.

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Crux On Ice – A Change Agent’s Treasure Trove

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Since late 2011, I’ve maintained the discipline of writing (and sometimes curating/negotiating republishing) an average of one article per week.

Around full time work and a range of other social media and activism commitments (and life!), the time has now come for me to put Crux on ice – not for good, and not completely, as I will continue to post here, but will do so on an as-needs rather than a once-per-week basis. One piece a week doesn’t sound like much, but it can be as much as another full work day split over two evenings, depending on how much research is involved, and whether or not you have any topics up your sleeve.

I’ve also got some plans to do something else with Crux, which requires me to free up my time from a weekly blogging schedule.

For recent subscribers as well as existing visitors to this site, the vast majority of content here is ‘evergreen’ and will continue to be relevant. I encourage you to rummage back through the Crux files menu on the right hand side of the blog, or browse this summary of areas covered, including:

Values & Motivating People

physical and sticker badgesfour different big cats, eyes featured in layered horizontal strips red, brown, green and gold eyes

 

Leadership

man in suit holding a black face mask over his face, having just taken off a similar white face mask russell brand with his 'fag pimp brand' sign, a gift from the WBC

 

Sustainability Thinking

young child in a forest touching a web of energy, green light human brain - left half grey cubicle farm, right half colourful image of people in nature

 

Understanding People

grid of icons styled from iconic movie characters an early version of Bugs Bunny, reclining eating a carrot and reading 'Victory thru Hare Power'

 

Communication 

cartoon images of people all speaking in different coloured cartoon bubbles (no words - different colours show different 'dialects') graffiti art of beggar holding a sign that says 'keep your coins, I want change'

 

Case Studies

screenshot of online news story about LDOA reuniting pets and owners Jamie Oliver, dressed in pea pod costume, holding fork to mouth of little boy pleading with the reluctant little fellow to eat!

  • the University of Adelaide’s campus sustainability program Ecoversity, and how the Lost Dogs of Adelaide social media phenomenon could translate to local sustainability

 

Self Care for Change Agents

heart shaped yellow candy with 'Just Say No' imprinted on it in red

 

Changemaker Profiles

  • how leading change agents approach their work

bauwens

Michel Bauwens, founder of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives

headshot of Neal

Neal Gorenflo, founder of Shareable

headshot of Ben Dyson

Ben Dyson, founder of Positive Money

headshot of dana pearlman

Dana Pearlman, cofounder of the Global Leadership Lab

headshot of Brett Scott

Brett Scott, activist, campaigner and author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed, commented, Tweeted and shared the content you’ve found on my blog, and to Donnie Maclurcan, Mike Freedman, Michael Michalko, Chris Rose, Susan WeinschenkBarrett C Brown and David Lavenda who contributed, or gave permission for me to republish their work as, a guest post.

I appreciate your support and interest and hope that the Crux ‘back catalogue’ continues to be useful for your work.

Cheers!
Sharon

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Changemaker Profile – Brett Scott

headshot of Brett Scott

This is the fifth in a series of Changemaker Profiles, which introduces the work of changemakers I know and admire, and offers insights into their approaches to communication and change work.

Brett Scott is a campaigner, former derivatives broker, and general economic explorer. He has been involved in various financial campaigns, and is a Fellow of the Finance Innovation Lab. I’ve written for publications like The Guardian, The New Internationalist, The Ecologist, and openDemocracy, and I’ve been on channels like the BBC, Arte TV & the Keiser Report. He is the author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money, published with Pluto Press. He is a Fellow at the WWF/ICAEW Finance Innovation Lab. He blogs at www.suitpossum.blogspot.com and tweets as @Suitpossum.

1. Tell us about the work you are involved with:

I am part of a growing global network of people who are attempting to rewire the global financial system. Part of that involves me just exploring various facets of the system, from base level questions – such as the nature of money – to anthropological questions on financial culture, to technical questions like the operations of derivative markets. I actually worked in derivatives for a couple years, which helps a bit in that process. I also help activist groups who are running campaigns targeting negative aspects of the financial system. I’m also involved in the alternative finance community, people who are building alternatives to mainstream finance. An important part of this involves me trying to use weird and interesting new platforms to test them out. I also published a book recently called The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money.

cover of Heretics Guide to Global Finance book

2. What motivated you to be doing this work?

I figured that a lot of the traditional NGO work has already been pioneered, and I wanted to try something different. Part of the motivation is based in curiosity: I love to learn about how massive systems work for the sheer intellectual pleasure of doing so. The other part is rebellious or creative: to use that knowledge to try take on massive systems of power. I also try to have fun in the process. I mean, in trying to ‘alter the economic system’ we’re in an underdog position, and I don’t for a moment assume that we would succeed. I view all victories in improving systems as unlikely and unstable bonuses, not everlasting fixes.

3. What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

It’s cool to see people coming to me and saying that my book really helped them understand stuff. I actually don’t really like pitching myself as a ‘financial expert’, because I’m not really a financial expert. I’m more an explorer who likes to share my explorations with others so that they can explore too. That process is fun in itself, but also can be very empowering for people who have been indoctrinated into believing that finance and ‘economics’ are inaccessible. It’s also rewarding to feel a growing movement in the ‘alternative economics’ space, albeit I always hold something of an outsider ethic, and try to maintain some degree of distance from more evangelical economic change movements (ie. people who believe they have the precise answer to all the world’s economic ills).

4. What do you feel is your biggest communication challenge?

The financial system is cloaked in a layer of mystique and seemingly impenetrable language. It’s naturally challenging to convey it to people, and also sometimes to understand what the hell is going on. Luckily, most financial professionals don’t know either, so we’re all in the same boat.

5. How do you handle a situation when you find yourself in conflict with someone about your work or ideas?

I like to listen to their points. Luckily I have a very anarchic intellectual stance on things where I don’t strictly believe in singular truths, so I don’t really mind that much if someone contradicts something I say – there may be elements of truth in both perspectives. Also, to a large extent I’m a chancer who throws out statements about the world and then attempts to revise them in light of responses – criticism is great for refining what you really think. There’s this weird expectation in society that things you say somehow must exactly reflect what you believe, and who you are, but I often say things that I’m not entirely sure I believe, just to test them out. That said, when I first started writing pieces I’d get defensive when people attacked them, but now I try to understand where they’re coming from. For example, a lot of rich white men get uppity about stuff I say, and then it dawns on me that ‘oh, they’re rich white men, clinging onto outmoded models underpinned by gigantic systems of power. I shouldn’t hold it against them’.

6. What’s your best piece of advice for change-makers and activists?

You should always seek to discover why you personally want to be involved in the causes you take on.  Too many activists don’t really have a coherent narrative as to why they care about something. It’s easy to say stuff like ‘oh that’s a terrible injustice in Indonesia’, but then you look into their eyes and want to shake them and say, ‘but why do you in particular feel moved by that?’. I feel moved and angry when I walk past homeless people on the street and see a clawing aspirational elite viewing them like pieces of trash that have failed at life. I get very warlike in those situations, and I realise it’s probably because I’ve always sympathised with underdogs who get marginalised in society. It’s not because I’m ‘good’ in some abstract sense, it’s because I empathise with certain types of people.

I’d also say it’s worth having a healthy degree of skepticism about the individual’s ability to affect change in the world. In middle-class university-educated society there is a massive bias towards believing in the power of the individual to shape the world, but much historical change is related to technology and mass movements (this, for example, is the basis of much of Karl Marx’s work). In that formulation people like Steve Jobs mean very little – they’re individuals who happen to strike it lucky and are carried along in the wave of mass acceptance for what they happen to create (Mark Zuckerberg is a good recent example – to me, he is not Facebook, he just happened to be the person who created a platform that would have been created anyway). These figures are manifestations of broader trends in society. Likewise, if you start a social enterprise, and you assume that somehow you’re going to forge a new route for society through your sheer charisma and talent, you should probably try to put yourself more in historical and cultural context. I love trying to do cool stuff, but I always attempt to put myself in context and say, yeah what I’m doing is cool, but it’s not really just about me.

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Want To Get Your Message To Stick? Stop Boring Your Audience

chimp with fingers in ears, caption 'La la la la la I'm not listening!'

It is a gratifying experience for change agents to be able to effectively engage with an audience.

But have you ever battled to keep a group involved as you felt their interest slip through your fingers like quicksilver? Had that sinking feeling as you notice straying eyes (or worse, closed eyes), more attention on smart phones than your message?

How can you make what you have to say more interesting than peoples’ social media feeds and the mental checklists they are creating in their heads that they will be able to action – just as soon as they can escape your presence?

High school science teacher Tyler DeWitt was dismayed to discover his students just didn’t share the same enthusiasm as he did for his lesson on bacteria:

DeWitt was stumped when even his favourite student told him that she didn’t understand the reading he had set, and that it was boring. The looks on the other students’ faces told him that although they may have taken notes or memorised phrases, they had not grasped the meaning.

Thinking on his feet, DeWitt decided to get his message across in a more compelling way, casting the bacteria and viruses as characters in a story about ‘secret agent viruses’ – here is an excerpt (you can watch the clip above for the entire version):

DNA is like a blueprint that tells living things what to make. So this is kind of like going into a car factory and replacing the blueprints with blueprints for killer robots. The workers still come the next day, they do their job, but they’re following different instructions. So replacing the bacteria DNA with virus DNA turns the bacteria into a factory for making viruses – that is, until it’s so filled with viruses that it bursts. But that’s not the only way that viruses infect bacteria. Some are much more crafty…

When a secret agent virus infects a bacterium, they do a little espionage. Here, this cloaked, secret agent virus is slipping his DNA into the bacterial cell, but here’s the kicker: It doesn’t do anything harmful – not at first. Instead, it silently slips into the bacteria’s own DNA, and it just stays there like a terrorist sleeper cell, waiting for instructions.

DeWitt notes that there are a couple of reasons the original text didn’t ‘stick’ with his audience.

Firstly, the scientific language has been stripped of emotion and meaning to preserve its ‘serious’ image:

…in the communication of science there is this obsession with seriousness. I used to work for an educational publisher, and as a writer, I was always told never to use stories or fun, engaging language, because then my work might not be viewed as ‘serious’ and ‘scientific’…God forbid somebody have fun when they’re learning science. So we have this field of science that’s all about slime, and color changes. And then we have, of course, as any good scientist has to have, explosions! But if a textbook seems too much fun, it’s somehow unscientific.

The second reason is that the language is often incomprehensible, especially to young learners – instead of using a phrase like ‘These viruses make copies of themselves by slipping their DNA into a bacterium’, science textbooks use phrases like ‘Bacteriophage replication is initiated through the introduction of viral nucleic acid into a bacterium’.

Thirdly, there is the ‘tyranny of precision’ – the obsession with making sure every detail is accurate, to the point that the non-expert loses the meaning, and which works against storytelling. DeWitt humorously notes:

It’s like science has become that horrible storyteller that we all know, who gives us all the details nobody cares about, where you’re like, ‘Oh, I met my friend for lunch the other day, and she was wearing these ugly jeans. I mean, they weren’t really jeans, they were more kind of, like, leggings, but, like, I guess they’re actually kind of more like jeggings, like, but I think…’ and you’re just like, ‘Oh my God. What is the point?’

Or even worse, science education is becoming like that guy who always says, ‘Actually.’ Right? You want to be like, ‘Oh, dude, we had to get up in the middle of the night and drive a hundred miles in total darkness.’ And that guy’s like, ‘Actually, it was 87.3 miles.’ And you’re like, ‘Actually, shut up! I’m just trying to tell a story.’

The takeaways from DeWitt’s talk are – if you want your messages to ‘stick’ to your audience:

  • ditch the jargon
  • focus on the meaning rather than preserving 100% accuracy
  • make it fun!

I have a colleague, Simone, who used to be a high school science teacher. Her teaching peers could never understand why the students were not only keen to get to her lessons, but determined not to miss them.

What was her secret formula? Was she bribing them? Threatening them?

My colleague had turned her science lectures into a mock crime scene investigation. She tapped into what was ‘cool’ with TV shows like Mythbusters and crime forensics dramas where she saw a myriad of maths and science tasks that could be modelled on pop culture.

Rather than lecturing at them, the students were actively involved as participants in a story. It was a challenge for them to resolve, and in a much more visceral way than they otherwise might by watching CSI episodes on TV. Similarly, DeWitt advises:

Pick up a camera, start to write a blog, whatever, but leave out the seriousness, leave out the jargon. Make me laugh. Make me care. Leave out those annoying details that nobody cares about and just get to the point. How should you start? Why don’t you say, ‘Listen, let me tell you a story’?

So take a leaf out of Tyler and Simone’s book – don’t be boring, make what you’re trying to teach full of meaning and fun for your audience.

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