An example of effective communication.

I want to describe a piece of remarkably effective communication. I know that it is effective because just 2 messages have changed my behaviour and I am confident that those 2 messages have changed my behaviour for ever. I've been talking about this with a variety of people over the last few weeks and I've been trying to understand what it means for how the Constellation communicates.

I got the first message from a poster. As far as I can remember it was a simple black text on a white background. It said, "If you knock over a child when you are travelling at 40 miles per hour, there is an 80% chance that she will die. If you knock over a child when you are travelling at 30 miles per hour, then there is an 80% chance that she will live." That was first one.

I got the second message from a television advert. A male voice repeats the first half of the text. 'If you knock over a child when you are travelling at 40 miles per hour, there is an 80% chance that she will die.' And there an image of a young girl lying on the street, motionless, with a trickle of blood flowing from her nose. And then the voice goes on, 'If you knock over a child when you are travelling at 30 miles per hour, there is an 80% chance that the child will live." and the trickle of blood flows backwards, the young girl stirs and she opens her eyes.

What I know is that with the first message, my concern to stay within the 30 mph speed limits went up dramatically. After seeing the television advert, I'd say that I now drive within the 30 mph speed limit 95% of the time. And when I find myself drifting up over 30 mph, I am annoyed with myself and cut my speed.

Talking with people I've found several angles to look at this remarkable transformation. Here is one.

The television image taps into a Dream and a Nightmare that I am confident that 99.9999% of the population shares. The Dream is that no child should be killed on our roads. And the nightmare is that we will one day be responsible for such a terrible event. And the text gives me the opportunity to take a very practical action that I am confident will make a contribution to making my Dream come true and to avoiding my Nightmare. It's almost as if the combination traps me into changing my behaviour. If I am serious about the Dream, then I have no choice but to act in this way. And for the last 4 weeks, I have been driven to change my behaviour.

I think that the Constellation can learn from this story and I want to come back to that in another posting.

...but I would like you to reflect on your behaviour and keep the speed limit when driving in built-up areas

...and if you would like to see more statistics about speed that might cause you to change your behaviour go to

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Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on November 16, 2008 at 7:11pm
A thought-provoking message. Thank you Phil.
Comment by Jean Legastelois on November 15, 2008 at 9:40pm
Phil, I only discover this story today. Relly great and it makes me think of the kind of messages that could be used for malaria
(If percentages do mean something clear everywhere...)
Comment by Phil on March 25, 2008 at 1:03pm
I hope that it doesn't discourage people from commenting.

Some thoughts.

I think this kind of exchange is not like a report. A posting is never complete. It is an idea which can develop. And so, it gets put up there before the thinking process is round and full. So I guess I know there is more that I want to say about the story, but it really isn't at a stage where I want to put it out there.

I like the idea of a post containing a single idea. So for me, the story so far has taught me the power of a story that stimulates a vision (no children killed in road accidents) with a practical action for an individual to do something about it (drive more slowly) with a clear message which links the practical action to the vision (80% etc). That's one entity that I want to carry round with me and justifies the entry.

But we learn by doing.....
Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on March 22, 2008 at 10:50pm
great story, Phil... but why refer to another posting? Doesn't discourage me to comment? I find myself waiting for the next installment of the story.... JL


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