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Harbinger MythBusters – People don’t like change

Change is happening all the time and while one would think we’d be used to it by now, there’s still a strong perception that most people don’t like change. Why is that? Krista Schaber-Chan, Partner, drills into this week’s MythBuster to understand what is truly behind this misconception.

I think about change all the time and one of the things that has intrigued me the most is when someone states “people don’t like change”. It has been my experience that there are in fact many instances where they do!

Smart devices are a prime example of this. Many individuals are constantly upgrading their smart phones and look forward to having new functionalities with system updates or newer models. The Apple ‘special events’ garner a lot of attention from media and buyers alike. These special events provide previews for new or upgraded products and the excitement they build results in significant sales on launch day.

What is interesting about this is the fact that there are literally millions of people looking forward to change with a new Apple product. What’s more interesting is how there are minimal instructions on how to use these new gadgets, yet people want to play around and experiment with them. For the most part, I believe that many Apple users figure it out on their own.

Another example is how we watch television and movies. We’ve talked about the demise of Blockbuster before and if you look at the timelines it did not take long for Netflix to take over. The transition from renting DVDs to streaming movies online is significant and yet this was welcomed with minimal direction on how to use the new digital service. (On a side note, Netflix has done a phenomenal job using data and artificial intelligence to create a strong user experience).

All of this raises the question – why do we like some types of change and not others?

After a lot of personal reflection, reading about neuro-psychology, and having conversations with people about what makes them want to change and does not, I have come to the conclusion that people do actually like change. What people don’t like is being forced to change. And sometimes , even if people are receptive to the change, they show symptoms of what many call resistance but is actually an indication of being stuck (Gregg Brown recently gave a great ted-style talk on this subject – you can watch it here).

Let’s take a look at iOS updates. If you’re anything like me, you are an Apple fan but have a love hate relationship with iOS updates. Doesn’t it always feel as if they’re updating just when you are starting to get used to the changes? And what is even more frustrating is how they force you to make the upgrade to your iOS if you keep delaying it.

There was also that time Instagram briefly changed their feed scrolling to side-to-side. This was a complete disaster and was not well received with users. There was an immediate uproar and it didn’t take long for Instagram to make a claim that it was just a test. This is another great example of how people don’t like being forced to change.

The key to understanding why we like change, but do not like to be forced to changed is perspective or mindset. Having a positive mindset is a powerful tool and is said to often be the difference between success and failure. Another key to understanding why we like or do not change can be tied directly to the planning, or lack of planning that happens before a change is made.

Surprise, surprise! Decisions imposed on people suddenly, with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are generally resisted. It’s always easier to say No than to say Yes. – Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Top Ten Reasons People Resist Change, Harvard Business Review

In a corporate environment, a positive mindset for leadership plays a crucial role as they are often needed to explain the changes, support their employees through the change, and are required to implement the changes with their teams. This is one of the reasons why the change management process includes a focus on empowering leaders to LEAD change. At Harbinger, we do this by completing a business readiness study via surveys and anecdotal discussions with key leaders within the organization. The combination of these efforts provides us with a strong picture of the current state, and helps us to determine how we will create a plan and work with leaders to assure the change is a success. It’s nearly impossible to do so without leadership buy-in and from personal experience, much of this does involve having the right mindset.

It’s important to remember that leaders are just like the rest of us. They too struggle to find that desire to change even with the everyday things in their lives like iOS updates. The good news is there are several tips we can use to accept change.

  1. Think bigger picture and not short-term. The change that is presented in front of you is not final. Everything evolves and more often than not, the change is what you make of it.

  2. Get over that mental block and be open to trying something new. How will you ever know if you like it, if you don’t try it?

  3. Have a plan. Stick to the plan. But be flexible and able to pivot if required.

  4. Sometimes change isn’t good and that’s ok too. Use what you’ve learned from this experience to grow.

  5. Ask for help! This is one of the best ways to learn and is also a great way to discuss your concerns or fears.

  6. Stop thinking about it as being forced. Instead, find that desire you have for the changes you welcome and use this positive energy towards the change you are having a hard time accepting.

Change is constant and if anything, it’s now a regular part of our everyday lives. Different types of change will impact people differently, but a change in mindset and a bit of support can go a long way in transforming how you approach change.



Krista Schaber-Chan Managing Partner Toronto



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