Why Companies Resist Change, with Lisa Bodell

Lisa Bodell: What holds us back from better embracing change might not be what you think. And I think it's two things. The first thing is mindset. And what we always find with leaders is we can't tell them that they're the ones that are holding us back from change, we have to show them. And the reason why I think mindset is what holds us back is we don't realize how much we resist change on a regular basis. In fact one of the things I talk about a lot with people is that I don't think that we're grooming leaders right now; I think that we are grooming professional skeptics. A lot of people are becoming risk averse because so much is on the line. They are skeptical because the unknown is obviously more frightening than the known. And you can ask people, when you give them new ideas, what they think about that idea and most times, nine times out of ten, people's reaction will be able to tell you what they don't like about the idea first before they can tell you what they like. So shifting the mindset to seeing possibilities, what could happen versus what's wrong with something, keeps an idea alive. And that's very important in terms of getting people in the mindset for change. Don't shut something down before you give it a fair chance.

The second thing that I think holds us back is our assumptions. And I talk a lot about this in my book Kill the Company is that we have a lot of assumptions around how things should work, have always worked, need to work, we've already tried things that way. And I think one of the problems is our assumptions hold us back from actually attacking problems. And what I mean by this is often when we look at problems as very big, very large, and that's because we have a lot of assumptions about that problem. And we teach people how to break down a problem into truths or many assumptions and attack those individual assumptions and turn them on their head. If you can actually take your assumptions and change then you can start to see again more possibilities for change.

We did a case study with several companies but one primarily down in Wall Street. And what was interesting about it is we worked together to come up with a new way to instill change in an organization. Most companies when they hear about a change program now they just want to turn off. Everyone has change fatigue. And the reason for that is most change initiatives simply don't work. And we wanted to go about in a new way. So we tested all kinds of things from tools that were amazing to techniques that were horrible and failed, but what came out of the research that we did with several companies over many years, but one intently over eight weeks was this: change cannot be put on people. The best way to instill change is to do it with them. Create it with them.

The second thing is is that change of course has to be supported from the top down. It must be supported from the top down. But where change happens is from the middle out. So the people that are sitting in what you do every day, which is meetings and emails, the people that are doing those things every day, more than they'd like, those are the ones that are going to be creating the change; they're the ones that have to be in power to do it.

The third thing is is that I don't think it should be a 12-step program. People are beyond tired of 12-step programs. They need a toolkit; an on-demand toolkit of tools that they can use when they're stressed out, when something happens suddenly, when they just don't know what else to do. The final thing is change can't be complex. No more complexity. We have to work on simplifying. So from my perspective and at my company if there's a tool that we have that takes us more than an hour to teach you, we should be fired. We should only give you simple tools that every layer of the organization can use and get on the same page with change.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

 

Lisa Bodell discusses the reasons that companies and individuals resist change. To overcome this tendency, she says, we must change our mindset, reconsider our assumptions, deploy a top-down strategy, and have an on-demand toolkit at our disposal.

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