Everything in the world around us has changed. But have you? Has your team?
Here’s the challenge: Change requires a different mindset, but the brain loves routine. It naturally seeks and organizes around patterns and mental maps you’ve developed in your thinking throughout the course of your life. Sometimes these maps are helpful; sometimes they’re not. Most change requires that we challenge our mental maps and form new connections in the brain—and this takes energy and motivation.
Not only that, isolated facts have little effect on mindsets. This probably isn’t news to you if you’ve ever read comments on social media or argued with someone over a heated topic. If the fact doesn’t fit the current mindset, it gets rejected instantly.
What is it about our brains that resists change so tenaciously? Why do we fight, even what we know to be in our interests?
Well, it’s because our thinking relies on our mental maps and mindsets, not facts. Neuroscience tells us that each of our mindsets—the long-term concepts that structure the way we think—is instantiated in the synapses of the brain.
In his research Dr. Michael Merzenich, an expert on brain plasticity, found that mental habits actually showed up on MRI scans. In studying flute players, he found that their brains had developed larger representational areas that control the fingers, tongue and lips. He could see that flute playing had physically changed the brain.
This is why mindsets are not things that can be changed by someone telling you a few facts. And it’s not just the flute players. We’ve all developed thinking preferences and mindsets that have changed our brains. The cumulative weight of knowledge and experience and the mental maps that have formed make it very hard to change your mind.
OK, so it’s not easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to change someone’s mind. If you’re leading change, need to adapt to new ways of doing things or are facing a major shift, start with these 5 change management techniques:
Change is always around the corner, and it’s always a challenge. It takes time to overcome a natural mindset that’s probably been years in the making. But you can control the way you respond to change and how you set the stage for others to deal with it.
If you’re leading and managing change of any kind, start by grounding yourself and each person involved in the change process in an understanding of your mindsets and thinking preferences. Then use your own inherent diversity of thought to avoid the mindset traps we’re all susceptible to as you navigate new change and uncertainty.