To Change, We All Need Help and Structure
Structure Is Necessary For Change to Occur
While I’ve written before on the concept of change, there are still many who don’t internalize the fact that life is change. They feel that there is such a thing as “steady state” and that at some point, things will stop changing and go “back to normal”.
Unfortunately, the only normal is constant change, and in order to ride these waves of constant change, we must change our thinking as well. For most people, change is extremely hard.
It’s not our fault, you know. The reason why it’s so tough for us to change is that our brains are really are made up of two very different sections: our rational, reasoning, planning, goal setting brain, a relatively recent addition, and our “dinosaur brain”, the been-around-since-forever, lazy, survival-focused part of the brain.
Our dino brain is the one which just coasts through life, the one which our habits settle into and can rarely be budged. It’s our dino brain which encourages us to sit on the couch and binge-watch Game of Thrones, eating potato chips, while our rational brain makes plans to workout or eat healthily.
The reason we have a tough time changing is that our dino brain is our fallback position – our habits are stored there and once it’s there, it’s tough to change them – your rational brains have to make a concerted effort over time to change that brain.
Without strong effort over time, replacing those habits with new ones, the old patterns return.
It’s the same for corporates as it is for humans, although you may be able to make changes much more swiftly if you swap people out (assuming you lay off those who think one way and replace them with those who think a different way) but the same can’t be said for humans.
In many cases, we think we can just change through pure force of willpower – but many studies have been shown that willpower depletes over time – you may have woken up with and planned to take that 1 hour long bike ride, but here you are, late and night, past your bedtime, bingeing on TV and snacks.
As adults, we figure that all we need is the pure force of will, and we can change. Unfortunately, many studies simply say that it doesn’t work that way.
We need help. We need structure. We need to revise our environment in order to force or trigger ourselves to the behavior that we want. For example, it’s not enough to say that you are going to work out every morning, you need to place all of your workout gear in front of the door so that you will need to pick it up before you can leave.
Even small changes can trigger behavior modification – for example, my wife and I have water flossers which we rarely used because when you want to use them, you had to fill them with water first. When we started filling them with water and leaving them with water in them, so that all we needed to do was to pick them up and start using them, our usage rate went from 30% to 100%.
Small changes in structure can lead to big results. If you want to change yourself or your company, what small changes in structure can you roll out which can create big changes in behavior?
For example, creating an “Innovator of the Month” award, where one innovator is featured in your monthly all-hands meeting, can have the effect of driving your entire culture to be more innovative, if your innovator can present their ideas and gain visibility within the organization.
What small changes can you structure today in order to see big results tomorrow?
Humans can always use a little help, no matter how great they are.