When I was choosing which quests I would focus on, I was attracted to sustainable change. There is so much energy, time, and money wasted with the implementation of changes and innovations. Some pass the test of time and others don’t. I have experienced this and seen it occur time and time again. Good ideas, projects and practices lose their momentum to eventually be pushed aside for something more exciting and leading-edge. I was curious to know what makes something sustainable or not.
Most people have a tendency to resist change or at least some specific type of change. Why is that? Greenfield’s article “Sustainable change” (2010) stipulates that leaders need “to be students of human nature to diffuse the situation and achieve longlasting [sic], effective change.” In his video “Achieving successful change- the 5 forces of change” he also states that certainty, purpose, control, connection, and success are what feed a habit and if these are affected by change, it creates stress.
Furthermore, according to Edwards (February, 2017), there are three reasons why our brains don’t do well with change:
1-We are programmed to be wary of change.
“Neuroscientist Evian Gordon [… stated] that « the key organizing principle of the brain is to keep us safe. » Throughout the history of mankind, change has been brought upon but not all were adopted. This is a good thing as not all of them would have been good for our evolution. Over time, our brain developed a need for stability which explains why for most people, change means that something is being threatened. This manifests itself in expression like: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; “not in my backyard”. Greenfield explains that this phenomenon even exist between generations. According to him, the youth have more ability to bend and adapt in order to make things work. As we get older, our brain becomes more set in its ways and is more resistant to changing its own way.
“Our brains crave certainty and predictability, two conditions that change doesn’t offer” (Edwards, 2017).
2-Habits are stronger than willpower
By doing something by habit, on a regular basis, our brain saves energy which allows us to be faster and more efficient. “It is so much easier to return to the status quo than continually making the effort to do something differently” (Edwards, 2017).
3-We calculate risk versus reward
“When we face a change, our brains automatically calculate the reward and the risk involved in order to determine whether it’s worth doing or not. As we weigh risk and reward, whichever comes out strongest will influence the degree of action we take; if we perceive the reward to be less than that of the risk, we are unlikely to engage in the change” (Edwards, 2017).
If someone does not know the why of a change, he/she will resist it. First, if the person cannot evaluate the possible risk and reward so he/she will not be interested in getting involved with the change. Secondly, the person’s purpose won’t be as clear since he/she does not know the reasons behind the change. Thirdly, since the decision is coming from the outside, he/she will not feel in control of the situation. Fourthly, the person will also have the feeling of losing with something that he/she is used to be connected with. If he/she is provided ways to connect with the change, the transition won’t be as saddening. Without these aspects, he/she won’t invest as much which could affect the success of the project. Finally, in general, nobody wants to be connected with a failure but if they feel invested in the change, he/she will work harder to make sure that it is a success.
So, what are the steps to make sure that a change becomes sustainable and successful? According to Greenfield (2010), there are two required steps to be followed in order to achieve this goal.
Once again, this confirms how collaboration between all the stakeholders is important in order for everyone to feel in control, connected, certain and purposeful, which at the end will generate a greater success rate for the change. However, it also shows the responsibility that employees have towards the organization and to do their own part to make sure that the change can reach sustainability and success. In my professional life, I have witnessed many movements for change. Most of the successful ones were driven by collaboration and the support that everyone provided within the community. I have also watch leaders trying to follow the outlines of what is explained above by: bringing everyone together to make them feel like they are part of a team and that they matter, to invite everyone to contact the leaders if they want to share ideas and concerns, to evaluate what is working and remove negative aspects that were not conducive to improvement, and so on. However, as soon as they face some reluctance and unwillingness to change, they also go back to old habits by trying to force their opinions and views on the rest of the organization. This shows that even if the willpower is strong, habits often prevails as that is what the human brain is program to do.
Edwards, Claire. (February 2, 2017) Why change can be hard-our brains and change. TJ Training Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2017 from https://www.trainingjournal.com/blog/why-change-can-be-hard-our-brains-and-change
Evian Gordon (2000). Integrative neuroscience: Bringing together biological, psychological and clinical models of the human brain. https://books.google.ca/books?hl=fr&lr=&id=cEtT6vEum6AC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=Integrative+neuroscience:+Bringing+together+biological,+psychological+and+clinical+models+of+the+human+brain&ots=hLNxczrK_A&sig=Rt3iblI_1XbpvgUe3kKp2vQDelQ#v=onepage&q=Integrative%20neuroscience%3A%20Bringing%20together%20biological%2C%20psychological%20and%20clinical%20models%20of%20the%20human%20brain&f=false
Greenfield, Anthony. (December, 2010). Sustainable change. Retrieved February 2nd, 2017 from http://leading2learn.ca/viu/OLTD509/documents/Sustainable_Change.pdf