Be The Change

June 14th 2013

We don't like change. We say we do. We say things like "a change is as good as a holiday", but we don't mean it. Just try putting "change" in a staff member's remuneration package in place of their annual leave and see how far that gets you.

In fact we resist change pretty much whenever we encounter it – Billy Joel even wrote a song about it. We lose our tempers when our morning routine gets interrupted by something as mundane as being out of milk, we don't like it when our friends suddenly out-earn us in the job market or even when a loved one changes the way they do their hair. And we most certainly don't like it when Facebook changes their layout... judging by some of the comments we've seen posted on Facebook, that's the big one, we REALLY hate that.

Of course, there are some very important evolutionary reasons for our not entirely trusting change. It has, throughout history, rarely heralded good news. Whether it be sudden shifts in climatic conditions, a population reduction due to some new, exotic malady or simply foreign interlopers arriving on our shores bringing a whole raft of changes... delivered at gun point!

However, whilst our suspicion of change has served us well over the past 65 million years, it has perhaps come time to leave some of these prejudices behind in our modern age.

Change, quite ironically, is a constant whether we like it or not.

Our world is now faster moving, more complicated and interconnected and our ability to adapt and embrace new technology and change is now very much linked to our survival. Which means, where once we viewed change as threat, we now need to collaborate, innovate and perturb ate as never before.

So how do we achieve meaningful change when the fibres of our beings wants to run from it? Let's start with a few observations of human nature.

1. Abandon all hope – If human beings have a favourite drug, it's hope with a dash of denial. We love to close our eyes and hope things will improve without effort. However, to make change work, we must first deal with what's real.

2. Link change to personal gain – Rather than appealing to our higher angels, appeal to our inner demons. Assume everyone is thinking "What's in it for me?" because they most likely are.

3. Link the change to the known – Change is scary (see 'our evolutionary history' note above) so try to make the change seem like less of a change.

4. Make change easy – If I have to work hard to change a pretty good status quo for a slightly better possibility, then chances are, I'll settle for pretty good. So make the process easy. Make change such a no brainer in terms of process that I have to work hard NOT to change.

5. Sell the change – Having done a lot of work with the scientific and academic communities, any suggestion of selling one's ideas often draws the ire of the aforementioned. "We don't like the word 'sell', it's unscientific and besides, we're right, we shouldn't have to sell it." To which we often respond, "Do you want to be right... or rich?"

Because though the so-called 'hard skills' have served them well, the 'soft skills' are what brings success. Research by Oded Shenkar at the Ohio State University observes that 97.8% of the value of an innovation goes to the imitator... or, as we would argue, to those who choose to engage people with their proposed change, not simply expect it to catch on because it's right.

So, screw Billy Joel and go changin'!

For more information on Dan Gregory please contact ODE Management

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