Spaghetti Sauce and Organizational Change

In this presentation Malcolm Gladwell introduces us to a man named Howard Moskowitz. In the seventies, Pepsi wanted Moskowitz to figure out the perfect amount of sweetener for a can of Diet Pepsi. Moskowitz looked for the concentration that people liked the most.  But the data were a mess—there wasn’t a pattern—and one day, sitting in a diner, Moskowitz realized why.  They had been asking the wrong question.  There was no such thing as the perfect Diet Pepsi.  They should have been looking for the perfect Diet Pepsis.

The End of the Platonic Dish
Moskowitz discovered that consumers don’t know what they desire if what they desire does not yet exist. This was a major breakthrough because until then people in the food industry thought that there was only one way to make a perfect dish that looked and tasted absolutely right. Gladwell calls this the ‘platonic dish’.

Horizontal Segmentation
Moskowitz ended the search of human universals (‘one best way’) and started looking for the sources of human variability.  Howard Moskowitz created a new paradigm in the food industry when he proved that there are no universals. If you offer a variety of perfect dishes the satisfaction of your target audiences is higher than the overall satisfaction of the platonic dish. Moskowitz invented horizontal segmentation that is abundant in todays food industry.

A Case for Blended Learning and Blended Communication
However, this fundamental insight is still untapped for organizational change management programs. Would it be true that you can reach a higher satisfaction if you embrace the diversity of the target population? This would mean that segmentation and a proper marketing approach would lead to higher satisfaction and less resistance against the change program.

In practice, one would be offering different ways to support the change so the target audience can pick and mix their perfect Pepsi (i.e. learning blend or communication blend). I’d say it’s worth a try since our goal in organizational change is to foster a learning relationship with the target audience. In the end, what would lead to more ownership of the future state? A. the platonic dish? B. the variety that suits my needs?