Why You Transformation Might Not Be Going So Well – What Change Takes

January 11, 2021 Focus area: Reinventing HR , Digital Transformation

One of the definitions of insanity is said to be “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. I think we can all resonate with the logic of that, but we all know in our heart of hearts that we have been a little crazy in our lives, repeated the same thing over and over again and sincerely hoped that something would change. So why do we do this? Well, because we’re lazy and it's easier.

Now before you close your internet browser in protest, I’m not saying that you’re someone who doesn’t work hard, what I’m saying is your brain likes making easy decisions. Let’s take an example: most of us shop at the same grocery store all the time. Some might say simply that it’s conveniently located which is why you go there, but there is more to it than meets the eye. At your local grocer, you can pretty much do your shopping with your eyes closed.

Have you ever tried shopping at another store? Ever had the rising feeling of irritability and frustration as you try and find what you’re looking for but can’t? It’s frustrating, your brain is working overtime to try and locate things, the things that you are looking for are in different places to your home store and your constantly reading signs and walking furiously around the store to get to them. Did you feel like going back? Probably not. If you don’t like changing grocery stores, think about changing your way of working and how tough that would be.

For tasks that we do habitually, our brain sets up neural pathways. These are information conveying pathways in our brain. Imagine a neural pathway like a river, through time, the river’s course digs through the stone so that it’s well established and the river flows easily, you can change the course of the river, but it takes a lot of heavy engineering and effort to move it. This is really useful for repetitive tasks like driving (imagine having to relearn how to change gears everyday!), typing, writing, reading and so on.

The problem is that this great bit of biological engineering backfires on us when we actually need to change something. It is simply easier for us to follow the set neural pathways and our brain is lazy and doesn’t want to take the mental energy to forge new ones when we have old ones that do a similar job.

This isn’t the only reason that people struggle with changing, there are generally multiple causes such as fear of redundancy or some political factor that falls outside of the "logic" of changing working modes. The point is that, even for the best of us, change is really tough and when you get the feeling that someone is "insane" for not changing, maybe remember the grocery store example, have a little patience and work with them to help that brain to change.