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6 Jun 2011

Directing People Lays Groundwork for Resistance to Change

The article, Now You Know, in the May 28, 2011 edition of The Economist discussed a study published in Cognition by Elizabeth Bonawitz of the University of California, Berkeley, and Patrick Shafto of the University of Louisville regarding the directing of children in their play. The conclusion is that prior explanation of how to play inhibits exploration and discovery.

Developmentally, businesses, through their everyday managerial practices, tend to instill a resistance to change in their people. They do this by excessively directing their people what to do. This direction not only comes via communications from managers but also procedures managers established. Consequently, employees don’t need to think; they just do as told.

As with any task, practice reduces anxiety of doing it. Uncertainty is no different. To become more accepting and adapting of change, employees need exposure to uncertainty. They need to explore and discover. Reiterated more pragmatically, they need to try and err. However, this requires time and money which is intolerable in most business cultures.

Therefore, managers need to look for tasks and projects that require thinking, exploring and discovering by their employees.  For example, assigning tasks requiring unique customer solutions would help. This could mean simply writing a letter to address a unique customer inquiry. Tasks involving working with people of different personality types work too. Creating a new process or set of procedures is good. Any task where the method or solution isn’t pre-defined or one of several works will help.

If you want to encourage your employees to have a change mentality, you need to give them experience in dealing with uncertainty. It means giving them time to explore and discover, to try and err. It means encouraging them to think for themselves rather than telling them what to do.

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