Jun 9, 2007

How change happens

If you had asked me a year ago whether I wanted to spend $1,000 on a large white purse, I would have thought you were crazy. A white purse doesn't last long before it's irreversably dirty, and a big purse doesn't work that well for a small person. But lately I've had a hankering after one, and if I had a spare grand around, I'd go to Nordstrom's today.

So what happened? As many have said before me, people don't resist change, they resist being changed. If people resisted change, shopping wouldn't be one of the fastest growing hobbies. (And men, before you scoff, let me say just two words - "Best" and "Buy." If you don't feel inclined to read the rest of this post, substitute mp3 player or game-blasting PC)

I love accessories, so I'm more predisposed to paying attention to new ideas about purses than many people.

Notice I say ideas about purses. Fashion is about ideas, just like business or manufacturing is.

Being predisposed to ideas about purses, I tend to put myself in the way of exposure to them. I read fashion magazines, go through mail order catalogs, hit the handbag departments when I go shopping, and I have visited the handbag website that comes up in the web ads. (That service lets you lease fancy purses.) I know big purses have been the thing, especially with lots of hardware - buckles, rivets, chains, charms, etc., because I've seen images of bags like that over and over again.

I've seen the picture of variations of this purse over and over again for the past several months. That's just the color. I've been seeing the size and type of bag for the last couple of years. Repetition is important.

I don't just want any white purse. The idea includes supple pebbled leather, overlapped seams with an exposed cut edge. Not a white white, but half a shade on the gray side.

I'm sensitive to quality - good leather, even stitching, fine finishing. I look at where the bag was made. It's probably made in Italy, maybe France, and possibly in the U.S. Generally this level of quality is $800 or more - much more for the big purse that's part of the idea in my mind.

So I'm predisposed to a new idea in an area of interest, I do things that leave me open to encountering the new idea, I have preferences that affect the new idea I'll begin to accept, and I have a definition of value.

Change happened. I did say earlier that I want the bag, not that I'd buy it. $1,000 is still more than I feel comfortable spending on a purse that will be usable for one season and is going to be too big to be practical. Aha, there's an answer. I'm on the lookout at Target for a good fake. It will bother me that it's not a good bag, but it will look good enough. If I still want one next year, I'll be looking for a used one, if it's cheap enough. I've been checking Ebay.

See, I also have the opinion that the white bag is just a passing fad. It's almost the middle of June, and summer will be over soon. By August the bag's appeal is going to be over. No one's going to still be using one. Unless the idea of the white bag becomes style, not fashion. If I see it used through the fall and winter, the $1,000 investment may seem more worthwhile.

And add to the other factors then that I am "resisting" change. If you really thought I ought to embrace the change, you'd have to find my point of resistance and how you to overcome it. If you were Fendi, Dolce, or Gabbana, you'd have leverage. If you were Target, you'd have an opportunity. Even better, if I were popular or influential, you'd have a trend. If you really wanted change in a larger group of people, you'd give me or lend me a really nice large white handbag.

So I'm thinking that lean is like that. Someone who's going to change has to like change in work routine, be predisposed to the change in question, be exposed repeatedly to the idea, have a sense of value for the idea, believe it will last for a reasonable period of time, perceive the right price (effort, if not dollars), and find it available. Perhaps the source of the idea is important, and the person will be influenced by seeing someone else using it with pride. It's likely to take a long time before the person wants to buy the idea. And the point of "resistance" has to be "overcome." Ideas sometimes have to be sold, and sold in subtle ways. It then has to be persistent - the way things are done for the long term, not for a quarter's press release.

So if you still see that white bag in next Fall's fashion mags, send me a Nordstrom's gift certificate, don't send me a purse. The bag has to fit my ideas well. Don't send me your idea of the perfect white bag.


Anonymous said...

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Joe said...

Awesome analysis and analogy, Karen. I really like this. And thanks for offering me the chance to substitute "mp3 player" for "white purse"...the swap makes perfect sense then.

This issue of being prepared for change, for even being in a mood to receive the change, is central. Yet I often miss it.

Much to ponder here...thanks. And I'll think of you when I see the next slightly off-white, large, well-made leather hand bag. The owner must be a lean guru :-)

Unknown said...

I found the bag at Nordstrom's - a bit smaller than the Marc Jacobs one I liked, lower-quality leather, not made in Italy - you can guess where - but on sale for $98. Still a bit more than I wanted to pay for a fake (obstacle) but my husband conspired with a very effective salesperson to push me over the decision point. The beliefs of the people in your immediate environment are also a big factor in making change happen. It's what swings the fence-sitters to making a commitment to something new.

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