Here's something you already know: organizations face a litany of challenges today. Attracting and retaining good talent, inspiring said talent, cultivating a cohesive culture, grasping globalization, keeping technology current and harvesting big data, not to mention mitigating uncertainty and other industry‑specific threats.
How, then, does one decide upon and manage change specific to their objective? Tina Juillerat, associate director of change management at Cognizant, has spent a career answering that question. While there's no “one size fits all” solution for overcoming change, she says there's a lot of useful science to help us improve our odds.
Much of that science is contained in the works of best‑selling authors Daniel Kahneman and brothers Chip and Dan Heath. In their seminal Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard, the latter argue we can overcome habitual thinking by engaging both the rational and emotional mind before making a decision.
For instance, we must objectively seek out wide‑ranging examples and data of where a desired outcome is working and clearly articulate it in an applicable and understandable plan, what the Heaths call “the rider.” Of equal importance, we must then use that plan to engage our emotions (aka “the elephant”) with hope, optimism and a personal understanding that we are capable of change. Hence, to improve our decision‑making, we must speak to both our rational and feeling minds; the “rider” and “elephant” must move in harmony, the Heaths argue.
Decades of research by Nobel Prize‑winning author Daniel Kahneman corroborates those findings. In his acclaimed Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman describes a two‑mode approach to decision‑making. “System 1” represents involuntary, emotional and instinctive thoughts that allow us to make “fast” decisions with little mental energy. We couldn't survive without “System 1” thoughts and yet they often cause us to make short‑sighted decisions.
“System 2”, on the other hand, represents objective, critical, skeptical or analytical thoughts that “slowly” allow us to make calculated decisions. But since system 2 demands significantly more mental energy, the mind is reluctant to activate it out of self‑serving survival concerns. If we want positive change, we must appreciate both modes of thinking, understand their biases and learn to engage system 2 more often, Kahneman explains.