Monday, January 26, 2009

People hate change

Particularly in the business world, but not only there, there's a canard about how people hate and resist change. This gets trotted out every time someone wants to have a reorganization or new procedures, and they meet resistance. It's a way to trivialize everyone's concerns and objections: people are just being reactionary and territorial, protecting the way they've always done things because they appreciate the familiarity. People hate change. People are irrationally afraid of change. Thus, we can ignore their objections, as they're founded in an irrational closed-mindedness.

Like any good bit of bullcrap, this has a germ of truth in it. To varying extents, people do have a certain level of inertia. But at the same time, take any one of those supposedly change-hating individuals and consider their entire lives. Some of them will enjoy living every day the same way but most of them periodically make big changes in their lives: take up new hobbies, meet new people, explore different kinds of entertainment, go out of their way to avoid the equally-trite cliché of a boring routine where every day is the same.

Pay attention, Mr. Business Consultant. Ask those people about change in the workplace, and I bet every one of them will have a dozen ideas for ways things can and should change about how their business works. Given half a chance, they would jump on the least opportunity to make those changes. Some of those changes are petty, some are sweeping. None of them are driven by inertia. These people who you mock for being change-resistant would reinvent their entire business day if you just let them.

What people really hate is being out of control of change. They don't hate change: they hate the specific changes you're forcing on them, and their own complete lack of influence over those changes. When you trivialize their concerns with a three-word, zero-meaning aphorism that isn't even true, you're perpetrating the very mindlessness and closed-mindedness you're accusing them of.

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