Convincing the Resistant

People HATE change.


They loathe and despise it. They see it, abhor it and team up to fight it. Mind you, not all people, all the time. But certainly most people, much of the time.

People rebuke change. People will mock change. People will link up and gang up to stop change. The Gap found this out last year, through their new logo roll-out. It lasted a week, before it was rolled up and thrown out.

I've stood before torrential opposition a time or two this past decade. You see, I'm something of a "change agent" in my work. Specifically, I talk about changes I'd like to see in the Technical Communications and Customer Service functions. Along the way, I've explored ways change managers can inspire detractors and win over the reluctant. I want to share three of these ways with you:

1: Prove that Your Proposed Change Crushes the Status Quo

According to Harvard professor John Gourville, "People irrationally overvalue benefits they currently possess, relative to those that they don't."  Gourville suggests that a proposed change has to be "NINE times better than the incumbent option in order to motivate people." This is because people pitching the change will "overvalue their new idea by a factor of three and people clinging to the status quo will undervalue the proposed benefits by a factor of three".

If your proposed change is better, say so emphatically. But use facts, not rhetoric.

2: Prove that the Peril of Inaction Outweighs the Risk of Destabilization

Consider an evacuation notice for a hurricane. For some reason, even in severe situations, there are always people who simply refuse to evacuate. According to Rebecca Morss, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, these people "just don't perceive the risk to be that high." People are weary of the "boy who cried wolf"; they are numb to warnings. They don't believe that you're painting an accurate picture.

If your proposed change will save them from certain doom, you must show exactly how and why.

3: Prove the Call for Change isn't Driven by Self-Interest

Distrust of leadership has steadily grown for the past 45 years. For example, according to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who distrust Government has risen from 25% in 1958 to 80% in 2010! If four out of five people openly distrust the motives of their official leaders, why do you expect them to trust YOU?

If you expect your change to be trusted, you'll have to show how it benefits those they care about, and prove you have nothing to gain at their expense.

You MUST Lead Change Anyway

Inherent aversion to change is the Gospel truth. It goes back at LEAST 2,000 years:

"No one who has been drinking old wine wants new wine. He says, 'The old wine is better!'" - Luke 5:39 (GWT)

People are going to hate change. But change is so needed. I hope these three tips can help us to lead it.

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