Implementing New Ideas: The Challenge of Change
How can you most effectively bring new ideas into the lives of the people in your business? Implementing a new framework of ideas in any business always involves changing people's habits of thought and action at work. Until ideas produce a change of habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, they are, in effect, inert. When ideas inspire real change, they can provide a powerful leverage for business growth.
But habit is one of the strongest forces in human life. And it's easy to understand why. After exposure to a new situation has elicited a new behavioral response, say, a solution to a problem, our minds store up that connection. A similar situation will then likely evoke a similar response without all the time or energy the intitial situation might have required. This frees up our mental energy and conscious decision making precisely for handling what we haven't seen before. Habit takes care of the familiar so that we can expend our energies on the unfamiliar. But the irony of human psychology here is that the habits meant to deal with familiarity can at times prevent us from recognizing the true novelty that comes our way. They can prevent our seeing the need for change. And they can offer inertial resistence to making a change of any kind, however genuinely beneficial it might be.
How then can new ideas change habits? First we need to understand that there are two different kinds of habit change. Old habits can be eliminated and replaced by new habits, or current habits can be augmented by an expanded set of habits. It's hard enough to create new habits in augmentation of what we've already been doing. What's even harder is to get rid of bad habits, or habits that are no longer effective, and substitute for them new, more effective patterns of thought and behavior.
Habit change of either sort, replacement or augmentation, can be accomplished in either of two ways: by a powerful single event, or by a series of events. The only sort of single event that typically can result in full and effective habit change is a disaster or dramatic catastrophe of some sort. I don't recommend pursuing this avenue for idea implementation.
The only other alternative to a single event disaster is a multiple event process. And any process for turning ideas into new habits of thought and action is a process of both education and personal growth. New ideas need to be communicated more than once. A process of reinforcement, done right, can have at least two effects. It can establish and firmly root the new ideas in the memories of everyone involved, and it can allow for a deeper understanding of both what the ideas are and how they can be applied in concrete situations.
I've learned this in much of the work I've done for companies in the past few years. The Morris Institute Basic Business Philosophy is built on two frameworks of ideas: The 7 Cs of Success, and The Four Foundations of Excellence, first introduced in the books True Success and If Aristotle Ran General Motors. I've come to realize that the best procedure for taking these ideas and using them to create new and powerful habits of thought and action is a multi-media, multi-level ongoing education experience spread throughout a company that consists in reinforcing and deepening everyone's understanding of these frameworks. We've seen that when client companies use the books, tapes, videos, and specialized workbooks available on these frameworks, there is a much higher probability that workplace habits will be changed for the better over the long term.
A man wrote me some time ago, saying that he had heard one of my talks on the 7 Cs of Success and got so excited he went right out and bought the book the talk was based on, True Success, which he read immediately. Then he read it again, cover to cover, underlining and highlighting throughout. And he told anyone who would listen what he was learning. The one thing he didn't do was to make the changes he needed to make in his life. He wasn't ready yet. But months later, he read True Success again, for a third time. And finally, he told me, he was prepared to take action. It wasn't one dramatic exposure to the seven universal conditions of success that brought about change, and it wasn't any sort of personal crisis that made the difference. It was a process over time.
So when you seek to instil new habits of thought and practice in your workplace, remember this. There are two ways that significant change usually gets made: through Crisis and Process. I never recommend the creation of a crisis. We get enough of those in life without looking or asking for them. I do recommend launching a process, in your life, your family, or your business. That's the way to position new ideas to make a difference.
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