The first time I used the “bait and switch” method was in my first book, Territorial Games: Understanding and Ending Turf Wars at Work. Without talking too much about that book, I believed some people would buy the book to improve their territorial games so they could crush their “enemy” departments/nemeses like bugs. That was the bait: Here are ten territorial games that keep people from getting “your stuff.”
Bait is never presented as a bad thing. Part of the “bait and switch” story is to validate that sure, it makes a lot of sense to want that “bait,” we are together in wanting something like that, but…the “switch” is we can have something better, or a hard lesson that the “bait” is, has always been an illusion.
Of COURSE you want to protect (validate), that makes sense, but if you protect everything you may pay a price (switch) in lost relationships, pay-back as others protect/hoard information from you, or build unexplained brick walls (since you started it)…then you might be coming out behind in the long run. For instance:
Cavemen protected land, water, and hunting grounds by growling, brandishing weapons, maybe even peeing on the perimeter. Today information, relationships, and authority is the turf to be protected. Same behaviors, updated. Who has not seen some doofus get angry (growl) in a meeting, mention unpleasant consequences (weapon) if “idea A” is adopted, or hoard information (peed on it, now it is mine!)? (after all that validation, my favorite switch)…and who among us has not been that doofus?
Bait and Switch stories tend to be about “THEM” in the beginning and turn into an opportunity for insight about “US.” Speaking from equality makes the medicine go down.
My favorite “Bait and Switch” story is one I use when there are too many egos in a room who refuse to budge.
Larry was a rescued greyhound. He didn’t win too many races. Larry was retired at 18 months. Retired greyhounds make wonderful pets, but there are certain life skills they don’t learn in a kennel. They must learn that nice dogs don’t go on the oriental carpet. The road is not a race track. They have seen a leash but a pleasure walks in the neighborhood are a new concept with plenty of surprises. Larry, for instance, never figured out (and he lived to the ripe old age of twelve) that if he walked on one side of a telephone pole and I walked on the other side that we weren’t going anywhere. As he felt the backward pull of his leash the look on his little dogface questioned my reason for stopping. I pointed at the pole. I demonstrated how to solve the problem, but no matter what he was going to follow my lead. He never backed off until I backed off. I could spend as much time as I wanted trying to teach him “YOU are the dog, you should back off first.” Finally I was the one who learned it doesn’t matter who backs off first, the faster it happens, the faster we can move on.
Every ego in the room thinks someone else should back up first, until the story frames that thought as worthy of the intelligence of a dog.
Basically, the purpose is to allow our listener/readers to see that what they think they want is not really what they want – that being better than, or master of, or the “winner” is not as satisfying, lucrative, or speedy as collaboration. The trick is to hold the mirror discretely so that no one EVER feels the least bit embarrassed or “called out.” That’s our job as a storytellers – to show solidarity with other imperfect human beings. Because…we all get our turn at the mirror.