Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Go Ahead. Shift My Paradigm."

I am not a Dirty Harry Fan. However, I love this scene in Sudden Impact. I love the extra sugar in Harry's cup which tips him off to the robbery, I love the militia-style massacre which puts everyone in danger but only harms the bad guys. I love the famous, "Go ahead. Make my day."

Harry is the iconic vigilante. He's also an icon for the paradigm shift. He does (mostly) everything he's not supposed to do which is precisely why we love and hate him. He defies our cultural expectations.

As storytellers, we need Dirty Harry. Yes, he's totally out there. He's a despicable dude. But that's not the point. Dirty Harry is important because he makes us think (for at least for 90 minutes) about about how we think about policemen, criminals and justice.

We need anti-heroes and heroines who prod us to ask questions about the issues and causes we care about. Because complex stories about complex characters help us change our minds.

As nonprofits, changing minds is our stock in trade. Whether we are advocating for a higher minimum wage, asking for donations to improve the quality of health care or soliciting donations for microfinace, we're all in the business of changing attitudes and beliefs. Turns out the only way to do this is to (sorry for the unscientific phrase) mess with people's heads.

"We are very much prisoners of our paradigms, attending to information that confirms them and cleverly reducing anything that is dissonant. The only way to escape from the paradigm is to stop its automatic processing...

What captures our attention and stops our automatic processing, according to neuroscience, is the new...One way of thinking about the new is that it is anything contrary to our expectations. It stops us and forces us to stand back and reflect."

- from Why Feedback Doesn't Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science

Do you have an anti-hero in your organization? Do you have a less-than-favorable but ultimately redeeming story to tell about your journey? How about those skeletons in your closet? And what have your learned from your biggest mistakes?

We're tired of only hearing about what is working well. Talk about the difficulty in keeping your coalition together and why you had to say goodbye to some nonprofit friends. Tell the truth about how you converted a cranky donor into a lifelong friend. Better yet, tell the story about the volunteer who has never donated a dime and why.

We're human too. We want to hear your true stories about how you stand, stumble and survive.


1 comment:

Case said...


I was impressed by the writing in your opening. Good job.

Uncle Rico