Changing Minds: 7 Elements of Building a Compelling Case

I am so thankful for the contributions of Howard Gardner. While his work on multiple intelligences is helpful, and I appreciate his newer work on the liberal arts in the digital age, creativity and leadership; I remain intrigued by the simplicity that he brings to the topic of his 2006 text on persuasion. In Changing Minds: The Art And Science of Changing Our Own And Other People’s Minds (Leadership for the Common Good), Gardner sets forth a series of elements that help to evoke mind change in ourselves and others.

  • Reason – logical argument
  • Research – data, observations, case studies
  • Resonance – sounds and feels right
  • Redescription – content is presented in a variety of ways
  • Rewards and Resources – sufficient rewards or punishments for mind change
  • Real World Events – significant changes in the world
  • Resistance Overcome – understand why one would resist the idea and then work to overcome that

My first reaction to the list was concern. These could definitely be used in an unethical manner. They could be used to hide truth as much as to reveal it, for personal gain and not the common good.

My second reaction was intrigue and acceptance. These are the things that change our minds. As an educator I have long accepted the fact that I am in the business of changing minds. That doesn’t have to mean indoctrination, but it does mean that I have the responsibility to influence the thoughts of others: from a student with no interest in reading to one who is skilled and enjoys reading, from one with limited self-confidence to one who has the courage to set and strive toward high goals, from one who doesn’t see the value of history or science to one who understands the value and nature of thinking like an historian or scientist… This is mind change. Even as I often write about the promise of self-directed learning, there is an aspect of changing minds as a I encourage people to embrace the challenge and opportunity of leading their own learning.

As I’ve been thinking more recently about alternative ways to approach lesson planning and instructional design, Gardner’s 7 elements came to mind. What would it look like to take an existing lesson and “bolster our case” using these items? Or even beyond lesson planning, if you are in a leadership capacity or seeking to build a case for a new innovation, these are helpful concepts. I’ve used them to do everything from writing a proposal for a new program to preparing a keynote presentation, to doing board education. Even more importantly, I’ve used them to convince myself of things, talking myself through each of these elements as I grapple with a new idea or possibility.

Posted in education, innovation, leadership

About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is a President of Goddard College, author, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, and Adventures in Self-Directed Learning. He is passionate about futures in education; leaner agency, educational innovation, and social entrepreneurship in education.