Change Management and Sex

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

That headline got your attention. But sorry to tell you that sex and change management don’t go together. According to a study in Applied Cognitive Psychology, Ellie Parker and Adrian Furnham found that when the sexual content of TV shows was high, viewers had a harder time recalling the products being advertised.


This phenomenon does apply to change management. It’s all in the power of the emotional content. Imagine you are announcing plans for a major change in your organization, and you just happen to mention some terms like downsizing or reorganization. It’s like sex. It distracts people. These trigger words grab people’s attention in ways you probably didn’t intend. And as you blather away about timelines and metrics, these emotional messages are all that your audience hears. They tune you out and begin to worry about mortgages, college tuitions, and retirement. (I call this Level 2 resistance. You can read an article about the three levels at:

I got this bit of fascinating research from Shankar Vedantam’s item in the Science column of The Washington Post. 3/5/07.)