The “Mind” Of Change

I went to DC for the long weekend. It is an annual trip I take, some business, some pleasure. The pleasure I get is meeting new people and greeting old friends I don’t see enough. I come away from this trip with a great, “I sat next to the most interesting person on the plane” story. I did not ask if I could use her name, so for now let’s call her “Mary” and hope she favors us with more of her insights and allows me to introduce her to you. I risk short-changing her resume here, but as a former banker turned Change Manager / Motivator / Executive Coach / Author… she is a person of impressive background. Her perspective on people and business made the flight time go by very quickly. The one thread I’d like to share is about the “mind of change”.

Mary has one exercise in particular that she uses to illustrate common human patterns. She has people sitting next to each other stand up. Then she has them face one another. She then asks them to look at their opposite and make a mental note of them. Mary then has them turn around, putting their backs to one another and asks them to “change” one thing about themselves, anything at all. Then she turns the pair back to face each other and have the opposite person identify the change. One of the results, as you may expect, that people are not very observant of each other because few note any change that was made.

Mary has done this in a room with a thousand people and in small groups as well. She has done this exercise for years now. The most interesting take away is that Mary observes time and time again that the “change” people make is “removing” something, not “adding” something, like a pencil, pen, handkerchief, tissue, appointment book, lipstick, paper in their pocket, etc. She observes that maybe two people out of every hundred will make a change by “adding” something. It illustrates that when it comes to “change” it is easier to “remove” than “add”. There is less thought involved.

Encouraging “change” that will “add” means you need to encourage “thought”. Any business that can withstand the rigor of “thought” is a business that is healthy. Change that is “issued” or “proclaimed” by a few will tend to miss its mark both in the effect and in the acceptance of the human mind. Quick change is easy but for people, asked to make quick changes, it tends to “remove” something. Change to “add” something takes a lot of thought and is best served with time.