“Cultured meat”, change management, and social influence

My dad was watching some technology-related show in the next room, and I was eavesdropping. The part that got him excited was when a scientist was saying they’ve successfully created a bladder from a donor’s cells and also successfully implanted that bladder into the donor.

The part that excited me was when the show mentioned that scientists are trying to create “meat” in the lab, called “cultured meat“. As mass farming is currently part of what’s destroying the environment, the scientists are creating “meat” in the lab to replace people’s demand for it and helping the environment at the same time. I didn’t realize this was already happening, because I have envisioned that this could be a solution for all, because 1) it’ll appeal to current meat-eaters who care about the environment and 2) it’ll get people who are vegetarian/vegan for ethical reasons to be able to eat meat.

But what does creating “meat” in the lab have anything to do with change management and social influence?

A professor of Business Ethics at York University (sorry didn’t catch his name) was interviewed about his thoughts on the above, and he mentioned that by nature, people are habitual creatures and are opposed to change. If change occurs slowly, it would be easier to accept the change. This made me immediately think of change management, and how its bottom line process is so easy, but it’s so difficult to execute because people have change-resistant tendencies. The same resistance people will have over whether or not to support and eat lab meat is pretty much the same resistance they have over new policies being implemented at work…even if the new policies would benefit themselves. This natural resistance is also why consultants make a living out of change management.

And then there is social influence. How would society start accepting lab meat if it were to be available in the market? Robert Cialdini outlined the basic principles of influence in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and the one I think most relevant here is “social proof” or how people are influenced by the social norms (i.e., what others are doing…see an article of using this tactic in real life here). I would predict that if eating lab meat becomes the “norm,” even more people would accept it. Using this knowledge, consultants trained in psychology (or at least those who know about Cialdini’s work) can again better help implement change in organizations.

Beyond the technology to create lab meat, I hope that one day world-wide change management and social influence will in fact move people towards more sustainable consumption and lifestyle.

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