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Time For Change

Stimulating Readiness to Organizational Culture Change

  • 26 August 2010
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

‘Come to the cliff’, he said.
They said, ‘We are afraid.’
‘Come to the cliff’, he said.
They came.  He pushed them.
And they flew.

-Guillaume Appolinaire


After finishing the OCAI assessment, you may decide to realize some organizational culture change in your team or organization. But some people are reluctant or simply resist change. Or they change a little but go back to business as usual the minute you turn your back on them.

Why do people often fear change? Why do we all think it’s difficult? Let’s have a glimpse of the workings of the brain and look at a few tips to increase readiness to change.

Many people fear change. Change means entering an unknown territory and new experiences. You are not sure what to expect: whether you are “safe” when you leave familiar ground.

From an evolutionary point of view, it’s wise to manage change carefully. The familiar situation might not be ideal but at least offers security: “Maybe there is a cave bear outside the cave; better stay inside.”

Development of the human brain is based on this perspective. Also, our appreciation increases when we see people more frequently (because they become safe and familiar). We tend to see things that happen often as true and certain. We get accustomed to the situation as it is. We adjust our behavior to circumstances and start to love it: because we are used to it.

Leave the cave—rewire your brain

Nevertheless, this behavior does not always produce the best results. The new territory may turn out to be safer, more fertile, or better than the familiar ground. But you won’t know if you don’t explore it. Readiness to change will bring progress to mankind (and organizations). So leave the cave!

Anyone can train readiness to change step by step. Breaking through the standard ways of thinking and acting will stimulate innovation and development on various levels. It starts really simply by breaking through daily routines (that are not emotionally charged) and thus getting accustomed to the “strangeness” of change.

The more you experiment, the easier it will be to change, even when it doesn’t concern a routine job. The brain will make new connections and get accustomed to feeling unaccustomed.

This makes it easier to cope with change. Also, by carrying out simple experiments, the brain discovers that “change turned out better than expected, that you were still safe, that nothing bad has happened.” Moreover, you have gained new information.

When generalizing these experiences (as brains do), from now on you will tend to think that change is generally not that bad and, as a bonus, change will actually provide new, interesting information.

Getting used to feeling unaccustomed

So when you’re facing reorganization, merger, or other changes in the near future, get yourself ready and try this:

  • Fold your arms. You will always do this in a certain way: left or right arm up. From now on, do it exactly the opposite way, until it doesn’t feel uncomfortable anymore.
  • Change places when sitting at the table or change desks with a colleague. Your perspective will literally change.
  • Take another route when going to work. What new information do you get?
  • Have quite different foods for breakfast than you normally have. What new information do you get?
  • Follow the example of a colleague—someone who has a completely different routine—and copy their method of working. What’s in it for you?
  • Take your pause at other times. Spend it in a different place or pause more often doing small exercises. Afterward, the same work may feel differently.

Do you have any other good tips to enhance readiness for change? Please share them here!