Change: this time let’s try something new

In today’s Boston Sunday Globe, Ideas Section, under the Uncommon Knowledge, Surprising insights from the Social Sciences, by Kevin Lewis, I read the following:

A Time to Try Something New*

Whenever you’ve experienced major changes in life, have you sought comfort in familiar things? If you’re like most people, your answer is yes. However, new research suggests that the real answer is probably no.

When Americans were offered a choice between American potato chips and British potato crisps, those who indicated a greater degree of concurrent life change preferred the crisps, while those not experiencing change preferred the chips. Yet, most people predicted the opposite choice. This pattern also held for nonfood choices, such as deodorant and entertainment.

The researcher also ran an experiment that randomly assigned people to list more (vs.fewer) life changes that were occurring and then make the same chips-vs.-crisps choice. Listing more life changes increased the preference for crisps.

I am certain none of the above Americans subjects were offered crisps with such gastronomically-challenged flavors enjoyed in the UK like Roast Beef And Mustard, Ham And Pickle, Prawn Cocktail, or Minted Lamb as these options would have destroyed any observation of these contrarian findings.

Once I got past my memory of those flavors, I was struck with what the findings could mean to generally accepted change management, project management, and organization development practice.

Where so many times I see caution and concern to not put people, teams, or organizations through too much change for fear of organization stress and people shutting down from overload. Perhaps now we should pile on as much change as possible?

It seems people may be more receptive to change once change, or at least major change, is under way.

It may not be definitive, but this research certainly heightens my sensitivity to organization resilience and an individual’s flexibility in the face of process, system, or technology change at the team or holistic levels.

Does this research change your view of change management, changer readiness, change tolerance, or organization development?

*Source: Wood, S.; The Comfort Food Fallacy: Avoiding Old Favorites in Times of Change, Journal of Consumer Research (forthcoming).

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