Scaling Behavior Change: The Role of The Catalyst
October 8, 2021 | Change
by ExperiencePoint

Imagine you have to change a faucet in your bathroom, but you’ve never done it before. You have basic knowledge of tools and standard practices and would prefer not to call a plumber. What do you do?

In today’s world, you might turn to Youtube, where dozens of experts share their passion and knowledge through educational videos. These experts demonstrate how to use your tools and guide you through every step of the process. You watch the do-it-yourself (DIY) plumbing video and feel informed. 

Now, it’s time to change your faucet!

But what is presented before you isn’t exactly what was shown in the video. Your circumstances are different; your faucet has double handles. This situation is high risk because you don’t want to cause a flood or more damage. The pressure is on. 

You video-call a friend that has recently redone their bathroom and kitchen by themselves. They assess your situation and walk you through what to do, from beginning to end. In no time, your faucet is changed and running smoothly. You’re so overjoyed that you share your positive experience with the rest of your friends. 

In this scenario, the friend with the broken faucet represents an employee trying to act on a new set of learned skills. They’ve been through workshops and training, downloaded the perfect toolkit, are innately intelligent but still need a bit of support to act. The trusted friend who empowers their companion to fix their faucet is a Catalyst, a change agent that supports colleagues through workplace transformations and identifies as successful only once others are. Together, the two roles play a key part in scaling behavior change throughout an organization. 

ExperiencePoint’s innovation capability-building framework prominently features a network of Catalysts; they build a community that develops capabilities through training, peer support and capturing success stories. Without Catalyst infrastructure, behavior change is challenging to sustain.

What is a Catalyst? 

A Catalyst is an individual within an organization who understands the need for change and has the drive to play a leading role in making it happen. Essentially, Catalysts help develop those around them with proactive and reactive support. They proactively suggest to leaders or colleagues that they consider using design approaches whenever they see an opportunity. They also provide reactive support when colleagues come to them with business challenges. Best of all, these change agents sustain momentum and offer a pulse on employee engagement. 

Catalysts are nominated, auditioned, and then selected once senior leaders align around a goal and establish the groundwork for an organization-wide transformation. Although the choice of a Catalyst may seem apparent to managers at first, rushing the nomination and selection of Catalysts ultimately leads to an obligatory journey of the Catalyst marketing themselves. Proper Catalyst deployment means that by the time Catalysts are brought in, there are many established ways to channel their creative energy. 

Catalysts for change can come from anywhere in the organization. Change agents can be found in marketing, HR, product teams, finance and operations, across seniority levels and geographies. Diverse Catalyst teams are always the most successful because they offer various personality types; not everyone will feel comfortable working with an extrovert, though they may seem the most suitable choice for a community cultivator. Passion for creating change and resiliency to withstand that change are important Catalyst attributes, but approachability is essential to scale sustained behavior. Furthermore, allowing diversity to drive the selection of Catalysts ensures that there isn’t any form of bias during the process. Ultimately, Catalysts that represent diverse working styles are most successful. 

Contact Us


Why are Catalysts Essential for Change? 

Catalysts are essential for change because they provide the additional confidence and support that employees need to tackle new ways of working and sustain behavior change. Putting the right tools and training in employees’ hands isn’t enough–that's a myth many organizations operate under and then fail. Like that person getting coached through their first bathroom faucet installation, many people need help from someone trusted.

Catalysts are successful at inspiring and sustaining change because they differ from consultants and educators. Educators teach and answer questions while consultants offer solutions. In contrast, Catalysts spread momentum and support, only identifying as successful when people around them are more capable. Their success depends on the implementation of skills and the worker's confidence to carry those skills out independently. While the former roles succeed regardless of whether change is sustained, Catalysts only succeed when others around them do.

In the coming weeks, we will analyze the role of the Catalyst by looking at their life cycle, common deployment failures, and how to approach identifying and recruiting ideal candidates. Stay tuned! 

To learn more about becoming Innovation Capable, download our free PDF guide.

Download the PDF