The power of hope


Susan Delacourt nailed the current post-election ethos in the capital in writing: “Hope is in fashion these days in Ottawa.”

While it’s hard to put a finger on it, an unmistakable air of optimism has taken flight (particularly among those working in or with the government) over the past several weeks. Certainly, there is traditionally a “honeymoon” period that exists with a change in government. But my sense is that there’s more to it this time.

In the case of the new Trudeau government, the sense of optimism has been intentionally and carefully generated as the centrepiece of the communications strategy. The extraordinary success of the narrative holds lessons for students of effective change communication such as myself.

Change management theory is rooted in the essential idea that for change to take place, the pain of the status quo has to be greater than the inherent pain of changing. Change, then, is an exercise in generating enough pain for people to move, and enough positive energy in the form of hope to generate the momentum necessary for transformation.

The new government has done a masterful job of designing change communications messages with precisely the right balance of messages of pain (in their case, the perceived pain of the incumbents winning another term) and a message hope for a renewed government committed to accountability and transparency.

While it’s still early days, to date, Canada’s 42nd Parliament is a case study in effective change communication. Its lesson is clear: never underestimate the power of optimism.

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