There are few things as complicated as leading a group of humans toward change. Even the most charismatic leader will face great challenges when trying to convince people to move towards “new”. Most cases, even if people have asked the leader to guide them they will still resist. Because you know, humans… we fear change!

New challenges, sustained growth and social progress often fail not because the lack of will; but because the fear of loss is way more powerful than the promise of better-ness. As Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely has pointed out in Predictably Irrational we suffer more by loosing 100 dollars, than what we enjoy gaining 100 dollars.

In evolution, any given DNA adapts to create new species and adapt with three actions:

  1. DNA loses some obsolete piece of information
  2. DNA keeps what only what works
  3. DNA gains new information to thrive

To understand we fear change consider viewing it as biological evolution. When we ask people to change we are asking people to:

a) Loose Something

Usually a routine, power, resources or even the mere comfort of not having to risk anything

b) Learn Something New

When things become different, people will need treat the situation differently. It can be something easy as switching from pc to mac, or really complex processes like new public structures and organizations to improve government.

For most people this are two painful tasks they are trying consciously or unconsciously  to avoid. That is the reason even though most people agree that they want things to change, the pain of giving up something, and learning something new isn’t greater than the pain of sustaining the things as they are. If we add the perception of pain by taking risks, we can see why most people have trouble embracing change even when they are aware they need it.

If you are having a hard time making change happen try solving it the way nature deals with it:

  1. Use the past to build upon its successes, instead of destroying it and build from zero.

  2. Make sure to communicate how Change brings a clear benefit to stakeholders.

  3. Allow people to experiment and test with reversible options.

Finally, remember that change requires the use of new and adaptive solutions and not technical solutions. This means you also need an adaptive leader that can question people and help them come up with their own answers, rather than pointing a direction and ask people to follow his vision.

Image Courtesy of elycefeliz