In Venice: The Hinge of Europe, 1081–1797 (1974,) the eminent University of Chicago historian William McNeill outlined how the Venetian Republic shaped European history. Describing the notion of trans-cultural diffusion, he wrote,
When a group of men encounter a commodity, technique, or idea that seems superior to what they had previously known, they will try to acquire and make their own whatever they perceive to be superior, but only as long as this does not seem to endanger other values they hold dear.
University of Washington’s Roger Soder quotes McNeill’s remarks in The Language of Leadership (2001) and supplies a case in point:
This is best illustrated by the technique of Jesuits who brought “new math” [including astronomy and mechanics] to China in the 1600s. They created the myth that the new Western mathematics had in fact evolved out of ancient Chinese ideas. The new ideas, they felt, would be accepted much more readily if they were seen as a natural progression of previously accepted methods.
That’s an important lesson on how to sell change: as a natural progression of the status quo.
Idea for Impact: People find themselves unable or unwilling to make fundamental changes in their lives. They tend to be particularly unwelcoming of ideas that they fear will alienate them from their core values. Tread delicately if you want effective change.