Think about the last time you tried to change someone’s mind about something important: a voter’s political beliefs; a customer’s favorite brand; a spouse’s decorating taste. Chances are you weren’t successful in shifting that person’s beliefs in any way. In his book, Changing Minds, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner explains what happens during the course of changing a mind – and offers ways to influence that process.
Remember that we don’t change our minds overnight, it happens in gradual stages that can be powerfully influenced along the way. This book provides insights that can broaden our horizons and shape our lives.
Gardner, a psychologist and professor at Harvard, examines the factors involved in changing minds on significant issues, in politics, science, business and art. He identifies seven key elements, including reason, research and real world events, that are part of the decision-making process. Certain facets are more heavily weighted in some fields than others: "leaders of large groups often rely on the appreciable resources at their disposal but are buoyed or undercut by real world events," says Gardner (Frames of Mind), who believes this explains why a politician or a CEO will disregard advice in the face of larger issues and popular perceptions. To prove his theories, Gardner analyzes the behavior of several individuals including President Bush, Britain's Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and South Africa's Nelson Mandela. Gardner doesn't limit his examination to politicians because he also believes that artists, writers, musicians and teachers can change people's minds. While the discussions and real-life examples are intriguing and do clarify Gardner's theories, the book doesn't fully deliver on its promise. Although Gardner does offer suggestions on how someone can influence others, he doesn't include a detailed prescriptive strategy for decision makers in the business world. Readers must draw out insights on their own, which, given the complexity of the material, may be difficult.