Your single source for new lessons on legal technology, e-discovery, and the people innovating behind the scenes.

Decoding Change: Psychological Tricks for Better Decision-Making and Innovation

Kristy Esparza

We’ve officially rung in a new year, and with it comes new ideas, new goals, and big plans. If you’re working on yourself this year, the motivation and decision-making comes down to one stakeholder: you. But what about setting goals for your organization? Getting buy-in on those decisions is a bit more complex.  

That’s where David Meade, a seasoned broadcaster, researcher, and the master of ceremonies at Relativity Fest 2023, comes in. He closed the conference for us last year with a captivating session that had nothing—and everything—to do with e-discovery.

David, who has dedicated his career to understanding what makes humans tick and how it affects the way they think, feel, and act, dazzled the Fest crowd with some psychological tricks for making decisions, getting buy-in, and helping your organization navigate the world of change.

Change: The Business Slowdown

A mainstay of David’s talk was how change can impact an organization, for better or for worse. It’s a deeply relatable subject in our arena given the constant evolution rolling through the industry, from AI to new data sources to developing regulations.

And in times of change, David explained, there’s one aspect of business that tends to slow down first: decision-making.

“We hope someone else will make the big decisions. That’s what leads to the ‘CC mentality,’” David explained, referring to the idea of copying your entire team on an email that contains even the smallest of decisions.

“Nine months from now if [that decision] bites them in the butt, they can say, ‘I CCed you at the time and you didn’t get back to me with any issues so … I think we’re both fired,” he joked.

Kidding aside, this type of mentality can slow down your organization and negatively impact processes and innovation. Rather than letting change sweep over us, our job as individuals in an organization is to drive change. Or even inspire it.

Motivating Change through Psychology

The question is: how do you inspire change and get the people around you to buy in to it? For that, David Meade shared a few tricks—tricks that are backed by the science of psychology.

Door #1, 2, or 3?

Imagine you’d like to implement a new solution at work. You’ve come up with a few ideas, but there’s one that you specifically want stakeholders to say “yes” to. When do you present your preferred solution—first, second, or third?

David revealed that an idea placed as option number three is 300 percent more likely to get a positive response. There are a few psychological phenomena at play here for most individuals and their perception of ordered options.

Option 1 is usually a disappointment that will never align with preconceived expectations of what the stakeholder had hoped. Option 2 is often a point of education—an opportunity for stakeholders to get a sense of the scope and scale of the solutions you’re offering. “But they tell themselves they’d be bad decision makers if they made a decision so early,” David said.

That leaves Option 3—and any choices beyond that are TMI.

“We as human beings can only hold three pieces of information in our mind at one time. The minute a fourth one is introduced, it’s too much information.”

Bad News First or Second?

Next, let’s say there’s an element of the ask that your organization may not be on board with, perhaps something that’s too big or too strategic. Do you put that weakness early in the conversation or close with it?

You can increase the likelihood of stakeholder support by 270 percent by starting with the weakness, says David. By placing tough stuff early, you come across honest, reliable, and transparent, and you can achieve trust more quickly.

“Whether it’s a client, colleague, or prospect, always lead with the tough stuff early to skyrocket your results.”

Start Small or Go Big?

Say you have a few ideas you want to get buy-in on—some small, some large. Is it more persuasive to ask for big things first, or start small and save the big stuff for last?

The strategy here depends on the circumstances. If you’re trying to motivate someone junior to you, start small and help them feel like a partner in the change you’re introducing.

Conversely, when dealing with someone senior to you—or a client or prospect—David says to start big first, but be ready to present a small, milestone-based plan to help secure buy-in.

Praise the Benefits or Mourn the Losses?

For this last scenario, pretend you need someone to do something. Do you try to appeal for their help by highlighting the benefits, or do you harp on the risks of not doing it?

According to David, highlighting the losses is a whopping 700 percent more likely to receive support.

“The fact is we as human beings love bad news. It’s delicious to us. It’s sticky adhesive,” he said.

But, there’s a catch. David acknowledged that harping on the losses can negatively impact the relationship between you and your stakeholder. Instead, be strategic: position the unique benefits of the change as benefits lost to increase your likelihood of support by 500 percent.

The Key to Change Is a Growth Mindset

To close his talk, David emphasized the power of the growth mindset—the idea that our abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. He reminded the audience that personal expectations shape outcomes and urged everyone to set bigger and wider ambitions for greater success.

“As human beings, we live up to and down to our expectations of ourselves. If you convince yourself, [you can’t do something], all that does is shrink your expectations and your ambitions. As a result, it shrinks your effort and your results,” he said.

Whether you’re trying to make a big change or a small one, David’s psychological insights can help. Just remember, as David Meade wisely put it: "Our job is to set bigger and wider ambitions.”

Sign up for Relativity Fest Updates

Kristy Esparza is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, specializing in content creation and copywriting.

The latest insights, trends, and spotlights — directly to your inbox.

The Relativity Blog covers the latest in legal tech and compliance, professional development topics, and spotlights on the many bright minds in our space. Subscribe today to learn something new, stay ahead of emerging tech, and up-level your career.

Interested in being one of our authors? Learn more about how to contribute to The Relativity Blog.