Luc De Brabandere states that change is a two step process; 1) reality and 2) perception. For example, the reality of having a car means that my perception of travel has changed since the day I peddled everywhere. I could peddle for 2 hours and get to location A or I could drive 15 minutes and get to location A. My perception of how long it takes me to travel has changed.
Many people have thought about change and how difficult it is to accomplish due to peoples natural resistance to it – we are creatures of habit. Prime examples are taking the same route to work everyday or getting a coffee at the local Starbucks. These examples are trivial but think about it, is there something you do each day that is a habit?
In the book Prince by Machiavelli published 500 years ago he said “nothing is more difficult than to change the order of things.” Today it’s said that only babies with diapers that are wet embrace change. But isn’t change opportunity? Did Michael Dell benefit from a change in the way computers were purchased, assembled and delivered? What did Compaq think of this new way of buying computers? Where is Compaq today? Perhaps only some of us innovate and take action?
Our ability to (not) change is rooted in the way our brains work and therefore to understand our brains and how simple they are is the secret (tool) that will empower you to change and to facilitate the change of others. To begin to understand how our brains work, have a look at the seven most important laws (there are hundreds available):
- The law of proximity – elements linked close together are assumed to be related.
- The law of similarity – we associate elements displaying similar characteristics and make groupings based on similarity.
- The law of common fate – this has an impact on how perceptive units respond to movement.
- The law of continuity – perceptive organization tends to prefer regular continuity to abrupt change by grouping things together that are dissimilar but seem to together and for continuity.
- The law of simplicity – When different interpretations are possible we gravitate towards the simplest.
- The law of orientation – association of objects is achieved using simplistic means.
- The law of symmetry – the symmetry of the figure is a key element to for the most spontaneous recognition of the form.
What does this all mean? Well it means that as we go through life we establish patterns for thinking, behavior, working et cetera. The brain likes to and builds coherent structures, forms and unities that for the basis of your perception of reality. Once you have these forms and structures imprinted within your brain it’s difficult to see things in a different light.
Other examples of how our brain works are the use of stereotypes, patterns and paradigms. Stereotypes are important, we require them to simplify concepts that otherwise would stop us in our tracks. A stereo type is judgment, reductive, is produced in a collective space and shared and, it endures. Examples of stereotypes would be to think of Cowboy, Movie Star, Shark et cetera – what visual image comes to mind when you say those words? Paradigms are an even greater trap. While Stereotypes catch us in small and specific falsehood, a paradigm traps us in a larger more significant one. Paradigm is Greek for concept, model or example – see where I’m going with this? An example, man will never fly like a bird, man will never go to the moon and a famous one, and there is no reason for everyone to have a computer in their homes. Patterns are everywhere and can sometimes skew our judgment. An example work be to list the top countries by Gross National Product. There is a fare chance you will begin your assessment by observing the sheer size of a country and then make your judgment based on this. Though Russia is physically larger than Australia (in top 10) it’s far behind in GNP (19th overall).
What does all this mean? Changing requires aggressive planning and rigorous efforts to execute. For example, when deploying a technology to improve custom service will possibly require process changes. Deploying a HR Portal that provides travel booking will most likely require changes in processes and systems but will result in process efficiencies and reduction in overhead – expect two years to elapse before the solution is fully adopted. Proactively planning for the resistance to change will greatly increase the odds of your project being successful.