Behavioural Change

Jo Geraghty

Director

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

Date added: 02nd Aug 2017
Category: Behavioural Change

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new: Socrates

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F Kennedy

We live in a time of unprecedented change. Advances in digital technology are everyday making the seemingly impossible, possible; and those things which were once the dreams of science-fiction writers are now part of our everyday life, available to download from an app store. But just because change is possible, is it always right? In exchanging new lamps for old are we in danger of throwing away something which would enrich our lives?

It’s a question which came to the fore as we were writing this article with the announcement that after thirty-two years of sterling service Microsoft Paint was to be withdrawn. In the time since its initial development countless drawing and painting apps have come and gone and yet Paint has marched on largely unscathed. Perhaps its appeal is in its simplicity, enabling even those without much creative talent to play with shapes, to colour and to draw on screen. Whatever the reason, the outpouring of love for Microsoft Paint has resulted in Microsoft partially relenting, agreeing that Paint will in future be available for free from the Windows App Store.

The story of Paint being saved from an impending doom is one from which we can draw a number of lessons. The first and most important is probably the fact that if you are looking to change a well loved product then you ignore consumer preference at your peril. Now sometimes there are very good reasons for product development, the removal of harmful micro beads or a reduction in sugar levels spring to mind, but a bald announcement that we are changing this or removing that could simply result in customer alienation.

We may live in a time of change but that doesn’t mean that people are naturally inclined to see all change as a force for good. So what’s the answer? Does the potential for resistance mean that we should call a halt to progress? Well no it doesn’t, but perhaps we may need to rethink our approach. Socrates said that the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new. And an important element of building the new is to help people to understand the need for, assimilate and engage with change.

When you take time to work with people, when you help them to build understanding and engagement then you can create loyal advocates for change. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working with employees, customers, suppliers or others; when they engage with change, they will in turn promote change. To do otherwise is to risk alienation and to lose all the goodwill which you have built up over a period of time. And the chances are that you will never know how much a force for good that was until it’s gone.

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