Is Your Change Tasty Enough?

I don’t drink, but I’ve enjoyed two wine tasting sessions with expert sommeliers. It’s amazing how much you can appreciate with just your sense of smell. A chart of aromas is often provided to assist your nose; I’ve always been intrigued that ‘wet dog’ is a distinct wine smell. No one is looking for a wet dog wine, but perhaps in the complexity of a wine it’s quite good…

I don’t like a lot of spice, but chilis in a well simmered pasta sauce is absolutely perfect. Getting the right amount is a critical skill. A pinch is useless if you can’t taste it. We need at least enough for it to make itself known, so it is not lost in the mix.

In psychology there is a concept called the just-noticeable difference or JND. When you perceive something (a taste, a sound), JND defines the amount of change required in that item (stimulus) for you to notice the shift. A teaspoon or garlic may not do anything for you, but a teaspoon and a half could create a phenomenal eating experience in the same dish.

This is a critical concept for leading people in new directions. If we don’t give sufficient signals that ‘something is different’, people won’t notice, or won’t think it’s important enough to pay attention. Posting a new set of values on the wall makes for good wallpaper, but not behavior change. Announcing a new program doesn’t inspire anyone until they see that something is really different.


There is a lot going on in your organization. Breaking through the noise to get people’s attention is both art and science. A bit of shock and awe is sometimes needed.

  • Release clues to your change leading up to a ‘reveal’ event
  • At a town hall, have people reach under their chair for a surprise envelope with details
  • Bring in a special guest with credibility to help launch the event
  • Pair the announcement with food (yes, bribery works)

No one ever made award-winning sauce without a lot of spice. Leaders know when to add a bucket of chilis. How will you get people’s attention?

Thoughtfully yours,


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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.

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