"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The following piece of beautiful thoughtware comes from Dilip Mukerjea as he thinks through a major change initiative for a client, just before he departs for India on a private trip on Monday morning:

Humans are hard-wired to resist change. We are programmed not to change. Bizarre, but true. This is because we are wired to survive, so we hang on to what has worked in the past…even when it becomes irrelevant! This is a consequence of entrenched, previously successful mental maps!

In fact, for change and transformation to happen, the fundamental process is as follows:

Stage 1: Do the right thing and do it well;

Stage 2: Discover the right thing is now the wrong thing;

Stage 3: Do the new right thing, but do it poorly at first (learning is taking place);

Stage 4: Eventually, do the right thing well;

Change starts with a history of doing the right thing and doing it very well, but then something happens: The environment shifts, and the right thing becomes the wrong thing.

Now consider this fact, using a fighter jet airplane as an example:

When approaching the speed of sound, Mach 1, powerful but usually invisible sound waves bunch tighter and tighter together, forming a massive wall of energy that tries to buffet and shake the plane right out of the sky.

Without sufficient thrust, lift, and proper aerodynamic design, disaster is inevitable as this sound barrier combines with the forces of gravity to crush the plane and bring it crashing back to earth. Lucky for the pilot of this plane, the designer possessed an in-depth understanding of these fundamentals to achieve breakthrough, letting her punch through the sound barrier as though it were a puff of smoke.

Change in institutions follows the same path.

The faster a leader tries to force change, the more shock waves of resistance compact together, forming a massive barrier to success. Instead of a sound barrier though, the leaders of these institutions confront a “brain barrier” composed of preexisting and successful mental maps. These incredibly powerful maps determine how people see the world of work, guiding their daily steps and behaviours.

Indeed, our heads are chock full of such maps! They frame our personal views of the world.

When change and transformation are needed, the challenge of remapping the mental terrain brings us to critical barriers that prevent sustainable strategic change.

What are the natural gravitational forces that suppress change and build brain barriers to breakthroughs? The answer lies in three questions that capture the essence of failed change.

And if we can understand why change fails (and it often does), we can figure out what the necessary thrust, lift, and aerodynamics are for pulling off breakthrough change.

• Why, when opportunities or threats stare people in the face, do people fail to see the need to change?

• Even when people see the need, why do they often still fail to move?

• Even when people move, why do they fail to finish – not going far or fast enough?

If we can grasp why people fail to see, move, and finish, and if we can break through these three barriers, we can deliver strategic change.

Leaders need to ensure that their people are not blinded by the light of what they already see. It is not that “an old dog can’t learn new tricks.” Rather, it is that an old dog has a devil of a time unlearning old tricks!!

When the maps in people’s heads begin to fail, the first reaction is to deny the failure, and the second reaction is to try harder by doing even more of what you know how to do best—even if it is no longer relevant, and perhaps, suicidal!

Tremendous effort and energy are required to get people to change, thus the need for visionary leadership!

Unless old mental maps are cracked or maybe even shattered, the journey to significant, and new, growth cannot happen.

The most prevalent reason for failed change is the first brain barrier — the failure to see. But even when you break though here, there is the next barrier to overcome.

With clear destinations, required resources, and valued rewards, you can break through the second, the failure-to-move barrier.

And even if one gets through the first two brain barriers, if the institution fails to focus on finishing, all the prior investment to break through the first two barriers is totally wasted. Thus the need for visionary leadership—one that can ensure commitment from everyone involved in the transformation process!

In summary, and another way to encapsulate the above points, the institutions in need of change need to follow the CBA path:

Conceive, Believe, and Achieve.

These three stages in implementing change successfully are designed to correspond with and overcome the three gravitational forces or barriers to change.

To break through the first barrier, people must conceive the old right thing as wrong and see the new right thing.

To break through the second brain barrier, people must believe in the path that will take them from doing the new right thing poorly to doing it well.

Finally, to break through the third barrier, people must achieve and know they have achieved the desired results.

Bon Voyage! Dilip.

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