Thursday, May 28, 2009

Convincing People

I came across this article on interviewing a while back, and have been mulling it over since. The proposition is that we are wired psychologically in an asymmetrical way. Alex at Technical Interview Patterns is drawing from a book called “Negotiation Genius” authored by Max Bazerman and Deepak Malhotra. It seemed to me as I read the list of strategies that some of these could be useful in making the assessment case (often a difficult proposition). The strategies are quoted from the article.
Strategy 1. [P]eople are much more upset by prospective losses than they are pleased by equivalent gains.
Here the idea is to frame opportunities in the negative. Compare:
We have an opportunity to become known for our liberal arts studies program.
If we don't act, we'll sacrifice a chance to be the first ones to do this.
Maybe this is why using the "wesayso" stick of accreditation is so effective: do this or else you may have to go job hunting.
Strategy 2. Volume matters
This is the idea (which I seem to recall reading in Machiavelli's The Prince) of spreading out good news and administering bad news all at once. It's no coincidence that it's usual practice for the White House to dump bad news on a Friday afternoon, where it's less likely to be smeared out over a whole week's media frenzy.

So perhaps a strategy for assessment directors is to deliver all the requirements up front--program review, curriculum mapping, changes to syllabi, the whole thing in one go. That takes care of the bad news. Do we have any good news? :-)

One effort in that direction is to construct ongoing dialog with key faculty. These meetings would highlight successes of the efforts weekly or at least monthly, to be disseminated. This gives the (hopefully correct) impression that assessment isn't so hard, and it's actually good for something. It's key that this knowledge gets propagated, so maybe rotating membership is a good idea.

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