Why do we struggle with change?

The last decade was VUCA: volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous; moreover, the laws of nature dictate constant transformation and flux.

Yet, according to countless academic statistics, many organisations are not ready for change, and some big consultancies even quantify “change readiness” through their research on organisational health. Thus, change readiness is mission critical, but what does this actually mean for you as an individual, in practice, on a daily basis? What can you do?

Like “Excellence”, “change readiness” is not a skill, but a habit – the habit to hack your habits, the practice to break your patterns and disrupt your default mode for anything.

We are creatures of habit, and neurologically, this means that daily practices like brushing our teeth in the morning or setting up meetings for a full hour as the default duration, is taking place on so-called super highways. Just like the internet has those fast connections connecting entire continents in milliseconds, your brain has those broadband connections for repetitive tasks and habits. Once a habit is using a specific superhighway, this becomes the default network system, and it becomes very hard to change. And why should it? You don’t want to reinvent the way you brush your teeth on a regular basis, right?

On the other hand, more and more companies have been hacking the Outlook Calendar Dictatorship, as they realised that most meetings don’t actually require the full hour, but perhaps only 35 minutes. In fact, 50 minute meetings are quite hip at the moment with one of my clients as it allows them to actually be on time, have time to go to the loo, and still be able to take a two-minute mindfulness break.

However, the start of this practice was somewhat irritating for some people and cumbersome for the project team who were trying to make the organisation more agile and nimble, and here is why: When started and trialed, those “organisation innovations” take place not on those super highways, but on little, windy, and perhaps muddy country lanes. Unless you have a tractor, driving on those narrow lanes is not very relaxing, and because there are so many little crossings and turns without any signposting, it’s easy to get lost and forget the fastest way next time. This is one reason why so many large and small change initiatives fail, because your inner dialogue goes something like this: do I really want to navigate those single-lanes again? Nah, too complicated. I’ll take the motorway again. And again, and again, until your brain passionately rejects the idea of unchartered territory.

This happens to all of us (with varying degrees) on a daily basis both in our private and professional lives. And then the next change pops up on our radar, and we do not feel ready for it.

Have you experienced this? In my next blog I will share with you my 3 top tips to help you get ready for change, but in the meantime, I am really interested to hear how you increase your capacity for adaptation and transformation. Feel free to get in touch!