Famed Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, noted for his theory of multiple intelligences, recently published Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People\u2019s Minds (Harvard Business School Press, 2004). This quick, enjoyable read outlines Gardner\u2019s research and thinking on how best to convince others (or yourself) to adopt a different viewpoint in various settings, including business. Gardner sat down with CIO to talk about the difficulties inherent in the process of changing someone\u2019s mind and the seven "levers" by which leaders can accomplish it.\n\n \n\n\n\n\nCIO: Describe the "mind-changing paradox" referred to in your book.\n \n\nHoward Gardner: People underestimate how difficult it is to change minds. The mind-changing paradox is my attempt to capture that. When you\u2019re little, your mind changes pretty readily, even if nobody pushes it. We are natural mind-changing entities until we are 10 or so. But as we get older and have acquired more formal and informal knowledge, then it\u2019s very, very hard to change our minds. Which doesn\u2019t mean you should give up. It means you need to be intelligent and strategic about it and persevering. \nI\u2019m not stating that on small matters it\u2019s difficult to change people\u2019s minds. A coffee break at 3:00 rather than 1:00?that\u2019s trivial. But on fundamental ideas on how the world works, about what your enterprise is about, about what your life goals are, about what it takes to survive?it\u2019s on these topics that it\u2019s very difficult to change people\u2019s minds. Most people, by the time they\u2019re adults, not only have become used to a certain way of thinking, but in a sense it\u2019s work for them [to change] because their neural pathways become set.[For a leader] to say it\u2019s a new ball game, that [employees] have to make different kinds of assumptions, that the usual procedures and the usual rewards and the usual skills are not adequate or are misplaced?this is really calling for a revisiting of fundamentals [on the part of employees]. And it\u2019s very hard to revisit fundamentals. \nFor instance, when British Petroleum says, "We\u2019re no longer in the energy business, we\u2019re in the blah-blah business," an employee may very well say, "That\u2019s wrong. We are in the energy business, and we have been for a hundred years. And who\u2019s this guy coming out and saying we\u2019re in the blah-blah business?" That\u2019s hard [for leaders] to overcome.\n\n \n\n\n\n\nWhat are the most important of your mind-changing levers?\n \n\nIt all depends on the situation, on whether you\u2019re talking about employees in a company or lovers or antagonists or your own mind.\nBut there are at least two things whose importance is underestimated. One is the lever of what I call representational redescriptions. Get the message out in lots and lots of different ways, lots of different symbol systems, lots of different intelligences and lots of different embodiments. The notion that you say it once and it gets through is just wrong. So is the notion that you can simply repeat yourself. You have to be extremely resourceful in finding diverse ways to get the same desired mind-change across.\nThe second [most important] thing is that people underestimate just how powerful resistances are. There are three factors involved in resistances: age, emotion and public stance. First of all, the longer your neural networks have been running one way, the harder it is to rewire them. Unfortunately, that\u2019s just a fact of life. Number two, the things that you feel very strongly about emotionally are the hardest to change your mind about. And three, particularly for people who are in public life, are things on which you\u2019ve taken a public stand. That\u2019s hard to reverse.\n\n \n\n\n\n\nYou say it\u2019s relatively easy to change the minds of employees, even those who work for large companies.\n \n\nEasier, not easy, I would say. There\u2019s a distinction between leading a nation, leading a sprawling company and leading a more focused company like, say, Microsoft. The more the company is homogeneous, in the sense that the people have the same type of training and the same kind of background, the more you can approach these things at a conceptual and theoretical level.\nAny CEO or CIO needs to make a distinction between the times he or she is addressing a rather heterogeneous group?say, everybody who works for Wal-Mart?as opposed to dealing with top management. It\u2019s a matter of identifying and speaking to your audience. Think about what you\u2019re doing when you\u2019re dealing with the whole organization, and what you\u2019re doing when you\u2019re dealing with a homogeneous group?which is most likely to be the people in your immediate circle, but it could be a very different group as long as they\u2019re homogeneous. It could be all the technical people working in the same corner, it could be the people in charge of the website?they all have the same expertise. \n\n \n\n\n\n\nHow much of changing minds is manipulation?\n \n\nI don\u2019t believe behavior change lasts unless people\u2019s minds change voluntarily. I\u2019m interested in leadership that\u2019s overt and mind-changing that\u2019s intentional. \nPeople often way overemphasize how much they have to keep things a secret and manipulate people. To be sure, there\u2019s evidence that in the short run, it\u2019s much more effective to be deceptive. Many people think they have to deceive in the short run. But in the long run, people and companies get found out. Ultimately, manipulation backfires.\n\n \n\n\n\n\nYou say that stories are one of the most effective ways for changing minds in organizations. What kinds of stories?\n \n\nWhen I say story or narrative, I have a pretty elaborate definition. There has to be a protagonist. There have to be goals. There have to be obstacles people can identify with. There has to be an ultimate resolution?hopefully a positive one. It\u2019s not the same as having a message or a vision or a slogan. It\u2019s a more encompassing, realistic, enveloping thing.\nThe overall narrative of your story is so important. Basically, what leaders of organizations ask [you the employee] to do is put aside or reject the story you have grown up with, believed in, internalized and seen yourself as a character in. Leaders say, "No, it\u2019s a different story. You may not like it initially, but it\u2019s a better story in the long run, and you have to go with it, and here\u2019s why, and I\u2019m going to show you by my own behavior that it\u2019s important."\nUsually the people best at dissolving resistances are the ones who have the same resistances themselves?because they know in their gut how powerful they are.\n\n \n\n\n\n\nBesides changing the minds of their staffs, CIOs have to convince CEOs and other top officers of their goals.\n \n\nWhen it\u2019s two people talking, resonance is the key factor. There is no general recipe for resonance; you have to know your audience well enough to know what\u2019s going to resonate with this person on this day. If you want to bring about a change in the CEO, you have to know him or her very well. \nYou need to do your homework before you get into that one-on-one situation. You need to know if this person is a story person, a theory person, an emotion person or a paranoid person. You need to know what are the sets of levers that work with him. And to the extent that it\u2019s a very high-stakes performance?this is your two minutes, you have to make the case now or never?you\u2019ve got to be monitoring very carefully. \n\n \n\n\n\n\nHow can CIOs respond to unrealistic expectations?\n \n\nThe most important levers are, again, representational redescriptions and resistances, and let me add a third one, "real world." First is just trying lots and lots of ways to say your message. Give your message in more than one way, arranging things so the [listener] has a different experience. That\u2019s what having a drink after work with someone is about. A few times in my life, I engineered to get a seat on an airplane next to somebody I wanted to convince about something, because it\u2019s a different setting when the usual assumptions and resistances may be idling.\nNever assume just because people seem convinced that the battle is totally won. You have to think about it as a military or political campaign; it\u2019s a long process, not a single battle.You\u2019ve got to be on your toes all the time to buoy your particular representation of things and undermine the others\u2019 versions of things. That\u2019s where real world comes in. Take advantage of real-world events; use newspaper clippings, studies, testimonials?any examples of companies that did something and it didn\u2019t work and why.\nMost important, even if you\u2019ve convinced someone of your case, one of the things we know from cognitive science is that there\u2019s always backsliding. You have to reinforce your message in as many different ways over as long a period of time as possible. \n\n \n\n\n\n\nDoes your framework for changing minds work in every instance?\n \n\nSometimes you\u2019re not going to change people\u2019s minds. Then you have to make a choice. There are four things you can do: quit; do what you\u2019re told; do guerrilla work, which is where you nod your head but then do what you want to do; or you can change the entity, work to change the organization into one that fits your goal.\nFundamentalism is a kind of a decision to not change your mind about something. We tend to think of fundamentalism in religious terms, but many of us are fundamentalists (for example, in our assumptions about work or family) because it\u2019s worked pretty well for us.One thing to consider is what you\u2019re a fundamentalist about. Are you open to changing your own mind? I wouldn\u2019t have any faith in a leader who said that he should never change his mind. On the other hand, I think there are some basic values where people ought to be very judicious about changing their minds.