Don’t Change

Monday, May 8th, 2006

Financial advisor, Kay R. Shirley, quoted in The Washington Post (5/7/06) said that many of her client’s portfolios have been destroyed by pride. “There’s this ‘I’m different’ feeling. . . People see mistakes others have made, and they think they”re immune or it’s not going to happen to them. I advise my clients to, when they’re considering an investment, double your emphasis on the negative and half your interest on the positive, and see if your judgment would be the same.” Now she tells me.

This advice, which comes from the relatively new field of behavior economics, can teach us something about leading change.

Consider this: only about one-third of all major changes in organizations actually are worth the effort. Most people I work with can tell you exactly why most of these changes fail. It’s resistance – and they can tell you why resistance comes up and how it destroy us otherwise decent ideas. And yet, they somehow believe that they can ignore what they know about resistance, and make this change work.

I like Shirley’s suggestion. The next time you or I consider a major change, we could ask ourselves: What if the worst that could happen was actually twice as bad as we imagine – and what if the benefits were only half of what we anticipate? Would we go ahead? Or might these simple questions cause us to slow down, and examine this change more closely. I didn’t think so, but I thought it was worth a shot.