Jason Clarke, founder of Minds At Work, talks on Embracing Change at TEDxPerth conference (Transcript)
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Jason Clarke – Founder of Minds At Work
This is where it starts. Someone gets up at a TED Talk and says, “Behold, we don’t have to do it like this. I’ve got a better idea. There’s another way. There’s another technology. There’s a new way of seeing the world.” And the new guys go, “Wow, that’s fantastic. We’ll go out and create change.”
And you can’t wait to go to your workplace or go back to the people that you live with and say, “Rejoice my people. There is a better way. It doesn’t have to be this way.” And you’re expecting the whole world to go, “Fantastic, it’s going to change.” And this is what you hear. You go, “Come on, we can do this, we can totally do this.” They go, “No. You know what? Because we’ve done it before” or “Now’s not a good time” or “We haven’t got the money” or “It’s been done. It’s never been done. That’s not the way we do things around here. It’s not part of the charter. It’s traditional. It’s complicated. It’s political.”
Do you recognize any of these? Of course, they’re all different ways of saying this. They’re all just different ways of saying “It’s not going to happen.”
So what I’ve been doing, I work in the innovation space, I’m interested in this wall, and how do we get past this wall. How do we take our passion and our ideas and actually make them happen? So I’ve been trying to figure out, what this wall is made of and how do we get past it? If we can’t get past it, go under it, go around it, or just smash through it.
The first thing you need to know; these aren’t real reasons. These aren’t real reasons. That becomes pretty clear because they’re so easy to refute. If they say for example, “It’s always been like this”, what does that mean? It means the problem is older than you think it is. It’s not an argument for not changing it now. It’s a reason why we should have changed it 20 years ago. When they say, “It’s the same everywhere” what they’re really saying is the problem is broader and wider than you think. That’s not an argument for not fixing it here, it’s an argument for fixing it everywhere.
When they say for example, “It’s not in the budget”, it means we’ve spent the money in the wrong places. Right? When they say, “It’s not in the charter”, what they’re saying is the people who were supposed to provide the vision weren’t thinking as big as you. When they say, “It’s political”, what they’re saying is, “I’ve learned to keep my ideas to myself.” When they say, “It’s just traditional”, what they’re saying is, “Actually, I don’t know why we’re doing this, but it’s always been that way.”
OK, and the thing is, they are so easy to refute. So when they say things for example like, “It’s too complicated”, you say, “I can make it simpler for you.” When they say, “You know what, it just sounds like it’s too simple”, you say, “That’s okay, I’ll make it more complicated.” My favorite one, a friend of mine got this one the other day, “This isn’t what we pay you to do.” And his answer was, “That’s okay, this one’s a freebie.”
So if these aren’t the real reasons, then what are? What are the real reasons, “No.” No one will tell you what the real reasons are, but I’ve been collecting them. I’m going to show you the seven most, the classic reasons why people resist change and what to do about them.
“I’m too full of emotion and fear to think about what you’re talking about.” This is a big one. “This has all come as a huge shock.” That just means, “Thanks for the heads up. No one told me about it and now I’m just dealing with horror.”
“I’m scared of the transition, not the idea.” Very often we think they don’t like the idea, what they’re really worried about is the journey to the idea.
“I don’t know how big a deal this change really is.” “I don’t see how I fit into any of this.” “I feel like I have no say in what happens.” This is really what people are saying. The one that cracks me up, the big one is this one, “I’m fed up with phony change. I want the real thing.” Very often when people are saying, “No it won’t work”, they’re not saying they don’t want change. They’re saying, “I want change that’s real. I want something I can believe in.”
Let me take you through these one at a time. I was dealing with a group of people who were supposed to be planning the future of their organization. And 20 minutes before I turned up they all got fired. The organizer said, “Maybe we don’t want to do the workshop now”, because it was going to be about the future. I said, “No actually this is more of a reason why we have to have the workshop now. We just have a different context. What will the future be for these people?”
Every time that something happens, every time there’s a change, there’s three basic ways you can go about it. You can say, “I want to see the positives. I want to see what’s interesting about it.” Or, “I just want to focus on the negatives.” These people who’ve just been fired, what do you think? The negatives. So instead of trying to change their minds to help embrace their change, I just said, “How do you feel about it?” These were the four things, I feel scared. I’m angry. I feel betrayed. I feel stupid. I let them talk for about 15 minutes and everything that came out of them was a variation on that same four. I’d write them down and I say, “Have you got anything new?” After 15 minutes they’re exhausted. There was nothing else to say about the negativity.
Then they started saying things like this, “You know, I kind of knew this was happening. I’ve never liked it here. I’ve only been putting up with this job out of sufferance. In fact, I need a good push. This is the best thing that could’ve happened to me.” They got there by themselves. All I was doing was ratifying their feelings. I was just listening to how they felt. And then before I knew it, they were here. They were saying, “This was great. I’m going to go back to study. I’m going to travel. Why don’t we build our own little support group and keep in touch with each other?” Now all of them have got better jobs and they all keep in touch. Because they went through this whole thing of what’s the negatives, the interestings, and the positives. If you’ve ever seen a small child running and they fall over, for a couple of seconds they don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. They’re not sure. Have you noticed? They just sit there in this kind of neutral space like, “Okay, this is different.” What’ll happen is, if dad says, “That was funny”, then the kid gets up and does it again. If mum runs up and goes, “Oh my darling, are you okay?” the kid goes, “I don’t think so.”
As children we have this positive/interesting/negative space. This interesting space is where the artist is, it’s where the innovator is, it’s where the inventor is. They’ll say, “Gee this is unusual. What can we do with this?” As we get older we compress that space and we see everything in terms of this dichotomy between good and bad. This is good, this is bad. Our default is to rate every change as being bad. So this is a way of people to understand, to audit their emotions about this state.
What about this? “I’m scared of the transition. I’m not scared about the idea.” I used to think it was about saying, “This is what we’re doing at the moment, it’s not good. This is where we should be going, it’s way better.” What I’ve realized is the way we do things now have got a couple of good things going for them. The status quo is all of these things; it is known, it is proven, it’s familiar. Sure it’s insane, but we know how to do it. We don’t have to adjust anything. It’s crazy but it’s what we do. You’ve heard that argument?