Change Is Good if You Don't MindThere is a saying "the only one who likes to be changed is a baby in a wet diaper". For the most part that is very true. However, people really do like change they simply resist being changed. This may seem like the same thing but they are quite dramatically different.
There are three things I rally enjoy, my wife, my kids and movies. My wife and I love to see our children grow. We are amazed at how easily they go from year to year openly adopting the marvelous changes that go on in their lives. They thirst to expand their horizons and look at change as a learning opportunity. Yet they still enjoy the comforts of having a supportive loving and caring home to come too when the change becomes too great. I would like to for a moment discuss the third thing I really enjoy, movies. They can help us understand the fundamentals of change better.
How many movies did you see last year? Are they all sequels? Some maybe, but probably not all of them. That's because our brain craves changes that are predictable and categorized. A new blockbuster movie is exciting. Being part of it is a choice we make and in reality it can be quite fun and have profound impact on us for years to come. The dating habits of men were changed for years after "Fatal Attraction". How many people wanted to be connected to "the force" after "Star Wars" was released?
Change is all around us. Look at the seasons. Year after year the same seasons come and go. The changing season gives us a sense of stability, a sense of predictability while allowing alteration in our life. Starting a new relationship before the winter holidays can be quite enjoyable. Ending one however can be a travesty. A major storm that destroys a community is much like that. Why do we like some change and dislike others.
It all starts in our hypothalamus. There are 2 little pea sized parts of our brain called the amygdala. This little organ acts like a switch which controls our protective mechanisms of the brain for survival. Our brain is constantly taking signals from our sensory channels comparing the input to known stored memories. If the brain senses that, the new input is similar to old data it searches further for subtle differences to reinforce what's already there. If the subsequent data arriving from our senses is non-threatening then the amygdala stays fairly inactive.
Introduce however, a rapid change that does not conform to the old data and watch out. The amygdala switches, causing a host of reactions throughout the body. The heart rate accelerates, the senses get sharper, muscles constrict and emotions flare. As we developed as a species, this mechanism protected us from physical danger. As we have evolved via technology our senses cannot differentiate between what we see on a computer, television, video game or theater screen and a real physical danger. The film and gaming industry have mastered this phenomenon to exploit our body's defense system to get us hooked on coming attractions.
The interesting thing about our evolution, the very system that helped protect us in our physical world is the very thing that holds us back in the new world of the mind. This new world had a major boost in 1992 as the open internet blasted into existence. We have moved further into our minds where the stresses we face are, in actuality, quite imaginationally inside our heads. We see something on the computer screen or game television that causes the amygdala to switch into protective action and in the real physical world there is no apparent danger.
Thus begins an irresolvable condition in the body and mind. Add to that, being bombarded with unending information, emails, request from cell phones, blasts from podcasts, blackberries, piped in music at the supermarket, on the bus, elevator, terminal, or train. We are in complete sensory overload right now and then a major shift occurs affecting maybe our income, major relations, or housing and you have to cope. How can we possibly handle it all?
An interesting experiment is, if you place a frog in a pot of room temperature water and slowly turn up the heat the frog will boil to death without escaping. However, place it into a pot of boiling water and it will immediately try to escape. Humans are the same way. There are movements around the world beginning to implement different strategies.
If you want to engage in a serious change initiative, how do you do it? Introducing small step by step process changes will yield lasting results. Try to integrate major change in one setting and BOING ---- OVERLOAD! You will also find that different people can handle larger amounts of change in bigger chunks than others. These people can assimilate quicker the positive impact of change and become supporters, those that can't become resistors. If the number of supporters are outnumbered by the resistors the outcome will be outright rejection. In order to have successful results you must find supporters until either you are so convinced you have achieved success or that you gain enough critical momentum to become unstoppable.
In the book The Hundredth Monkey, the researcher discovered that there is a begrudgingly gradual acceptance for change within any community until a certain tipping point is achieved. After that point the overall acceptance is overwhelming. That critical point is about one third of the population. If you ever are in an audience, notice how long it takes people to clap. Once one third of the room is clapping all the sudden the rest of the room immediately joins in.
So if you are looking to have major change in something you are doing, it is important to find supporters. As you build momentum, you will find mounting opposition until you reach the tipping point then BAM everyone is on your side. You must be patient during the opposition phase. You must have confidence in what you are doing. Even more so, you have to make sure, that what you are doing is for the common good of the group you are changing even if they don't see it now. Fail that and the group can and will most likely get ugly.
Look for little signs of acceptance amongst the resistors as you proceed. There are specific members of the resisting community that once they accept your change, they actually help accelerate moving to the critical third. As your momentum builds you want to decipher the underlying cause for resistance. Do the people involved or impacted by the change see it as something that is forced on them? Or is it something that they can choose to be a part of? The first causes their amygdala to switch into action causing them to fight you at all costs. The second keeps it idling so they become part of making the outcome fun and enjoyable.
The big thing about change that my wife and kids have taught me is it can actually be a lot of fun. I have also learned like picking a wrong movie it can also be agonizing and long with you waiting for it to be over as quickly as possible. Change is one of the things in life that's certain. You can choose to accept it and make the best of it or fight it and make it hard. I prefer my kids approach and embrace it for all it has to teach me and find as much laughter along the way. Oh yeah, that's the other thing I really love about my wife, we laugh a lot.
Michael Spindelman lives in Western New York, is an Engineer from RIT, a writer, trainer, mentor, 6 Sigma Champion with nearly 30 yrs experience in business development as a sr. exec and is a mature serial entrepreneur. More about dealing with change at: http://www.eventronics.com/CEOSecretWeb