Thursday, 30 September 2010

Where are you on the Radical Train?

Have you ever had one of those moments when the camera zooms in on you, everything stands still and you suddenly get it?

I had one with the Radical Train a year or so ago. I was sitting in a room on a leadership course and I suddenly understood a bit more of who I am. I'm a radical. I'm not the most radical of radicals, but I'm still a radical.


Most people are progressives or conservatives. They make the bulk of the train.

Progressives are in the engine room. They keep the power in the engine, they keep the speed up, they keep everything going.

Conservatives are in the first few carriages. They are willing to be driven along by the progressives, but there are a lot of them though, so they are powerful voice if something goes wrong. The reason that the progressives can drive the conservatives is that they are both rational thinkers. They are both persuaded by reason and logic. The progressives work in that mode so as long as the train is going along fine, the conservatives will be easily persuaded by the rational arguments of the progressives.

The traditionalists are a different group altogether. They are in the brake van at the back of the train. They remember the good old days when everything was better. They keep us safe by slamming on the brakes when things get out of hand. When this has happened, when the dust has settled and the train is ready to go again, they have a tendency to keep their hands on the brake. Progressives and conservatives can find it difficult to persuade them because they function at an emotional level.

Radicals also function at an emotional level. This makes them the perfect group to persuade the traditionalists. But unfortunately the radical aren't even on the train. They're a couple of miles down the line laying the track for the train to go on. They have a really important job, but they're often the most excluded of all the groups because they can be so far ahead of anyone else. And they find it really difficult to persuade the progressives who are driving the train because of the difference between how they function - emotional vs rational. Sometimes the progressives don't leave the station because the radicals have so annoyed them with how the talk to each other. And sometimes the radicals get so disillusioned with how infrequently the progressives drive the train down their tracks that they give up and become traditionalists. Yes, being primarily emotional they are destined for traditionalism if their ideas don't work.

Recognising all this has really helped me over the last year or so. It's helped me identify the progressives who can drive the train towards my tracks. It's helped me talked rationally to progressives and conservatives (just because I'm emotional doesn't mean I can't function rationally). And it's helped me talk to the traditionalists who are just trying to hold the brake on - to talk to them emotionally, value the fears they have for where the train is going and spark the old radicalism that they use to hold into life again.

Recognise where you are on the train and you can affect everyone.

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