Will Change Resistors Change?

Craig Brown at Better Projects:

Here's an idea that was suggested to me today; People who resist change will still change.  They just change slower than others.  Why?  The idea is that resistors are really trying to hold the status quo.  If your early adopters and the middle packs move on to the new way of thinking and doing business the status quo eventually changes.  After a while your change resistors have adopted the new status quo.

I think this idea is partly true: some change resisters are indeed likely to come around and accept a new “future state”, given time.  But I would suggest two caveats to keep in mind when considering this.

First, it assumes the planned change actually happens, and is sufficiently successful that you eventually reach the “new status quo” you intended to reach.  That’s by no means a foregone conclusion.  Indeed, that this so often fails to happen is one driver behind the rise of organizational change management as a discipline.  Resistance to change can be so disruptive that it derails a change initiative completely or worse, results in a future state that the organization did not intend, and that leaves it worse off than it was in the beginning.  If you are attempting to implement a major system or process change, and the new status quo turns out to be that you can no longer fulfill orders or respond to customer inquiries, the question of whether change resisters will eventually adapt to this state of affairs is suddenly the least of your problems.  Indeed, you may discover the change resisters were trying to tell you something important.

Second, it’s not universally true.  People resist change for a lot of different reasons, some of them perfectly rational, others less so.  Whether a given person comes to accept the new status quo, and how long it takes, will depend in part on the person and in part on their motivation.  When change is managed well, and stakeholder perspectives given proper attention, some people will be won over before the change, some will be won over in time, and realistically, some will never accept the change, and will eventually leave the organization one way or another.  In the end, even people who are willing to be “won over” will be more or less persuaded depending on how the change is presented, and how they are treated over the course of change.  That’s one reason why a good change management plan will seek to anticipate sources of change resistance—both the resisters and their motivations—and develop appropriate approaches for responding to each.

A Cynical Start for a Cynical Series

Barry Otterholt at the PM Hut blog has started a series of posts he calls A Cynical Perspective on Project Management with the tongue-in-cheek “Project Management 101.”  He explains, “Most of us need to learn by our own mistakes, rather than heed the wisdom of others. Here then is the prescription for learning, so you can make the mistakes faster and get to the wisdom sooner.”  It’s pretty entertaining, I just hope there aren’t budding project managers out there who read it and miss that it’s humor.  I’m looking forward to see what else he has planned for the series.

Get the Failure Over With

Why wait for your project to actually fail when you can imagine it did up-front?  Simon Moore at Strategic Project Portfolio Management writes about the use of a “premortem” as a risk management tool.  The supporting research found their use can increase the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%:

…[P]ost-mortems are, by definition, only successful correcting mistakes after they happen. …Experience may be the best teacher, but that can also prove expensive. Pre-mortems offer a different solution, correcting problems in advance, and eliminating the risk in the first place.

A pre-mortem involves getting project stakeholders and participants into a room before a project starts, making the rather bleak assumption that the project was not successful and then determining the cause. By assuming that the project has already failed, it makes it much easier for everyone in the room to be creative in pointing to potential problems and shortcomings.

I think it’s fascinating that a simple and completely notional change in mental perspective can have such a profound impact on the effectiveness of surfacing risks early.  Moore links to this Harvard Business Review article in which Gary Klein introduced the term “premortem”; it goes into more detail on the research behind the idea.

Kevin Siegel’s Adobe Captivate 5 Sneak Peek

Kevin Siegel was at last week’s Adobe Learning Summit, and shares details about the forthcoming Adobe Captivate 5 in this sneak peek.  Among other things, it sounds like Adobe has done significant work to make Captivate’s user interface more like those of their other design products.

How The Brain Learns To See

Conventional wisdom has it that the human brain is unable to learn to see after age 5 or 6, diminishing hope for the restoration of sight to those blinded at an early age.  However, new research published in the Journal of Psychological Science suggests the conventional wisdom may be incorrect:

This work builds on a 2007 study in which Sinha and graduate student Yuri Ostrovsky showed that a woman who had had her sight restored at age 12 had nearly normal visual processing abilities. These findings were significant since they challenged the widely held notion of a "critical age" for acquiring vision.

However, because they came across the woman 20 years after her sight was restored, the researchers had no chance to study how her brain first learned to process visual input. The new work focuses on three adolescent and young adult patients in India, and follows them from the time of treatment to several months afterward. It suggests that "not only is recovery possible, but also provides insights into the mechanism by which such recovery comes about," says Sinha.

…[The] results suggest that movement patterns in the world provide some of the most salient clues about its constituent objects. The brain is programmed to use similarity of dynamics to infer which regions constitute objects, says Sinha. The significance of motion may go even further, the team believes. It may serve to "bootstrap" the learning of rules and heuristics by which the brain comes to be able to parse static images.

…In addition to understanding how the human visual system works, the findings could help researchers build robots with visual systems capable of autonomously discovering objects in their environment.

"If we could understand how the brain learns to see, we can better understand how to train a computer to do it," says Ostrovsky.

Fascinating stuff, especially the possible role of motion in the learning process—which makes a lot of sense to me, given what we already know about the role of novelty in learning and perception.  This is also the latest of many things I’ve read in the last few years that the brain may exhibit greater plasticity later in life than was once assumed.

Observe, Interpret, and Intervene

How to make decisions outside of your core competencies in BusinessWeek.  “When faced with a new challenge, forget about acting fast. Instead start a three-step process to formulate the best solution.”  As an NT, I love this idea, of course.  (Via Lifehacker.)

10 Online Learning Tools for Students

A nice list at makeuseof.com (via Guy Kawasaki on Twitter).

Adobe Captivate 4 Released

The new version of Adobe’s flagship rapid e-learning tool hits the streets just in time for ASTD’s TechKnowledge conference next week.  Looks pretty nice—though at $799, it certainly doesn’t come cheap. 

Lots of into on the new version here.

Speaking of Web 2.0… What is it, Exactly?

I mentioned Web 2.0 in yesterday’s post in the context of learning technology… but what is it, exactly?  It’s a buzzword that’s been tossed around in tech-savvy circles for a while, but like many buzzwords, it’s ill-defined.

Last year, Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist at the Kansas State University, put together a five-minute film which is the most elegant explanation I’ve seen, as well as a rather beautiful expression of what Web 2.0 may mean to the evolution of human communication.  It’s been out there on YouTube since early 2007, but if you haven’t seen it, especially if you’re interested in the evolution of the Web, it’s very much worth a look:

Presentations on Rapid e-Learning and Learning 2.0

Zulfi Kureshi and I spoke at a meeting of the E-Learning Council in Austin, Texas a couple of weeks ago.  My presentation was an introduction to rapid e-learning tools, while he spoke about “Learning 2.0”, the use of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis in learning applications.  Both sessions were well-attended, and generated some thoughtful discussion with the audience afterward, which was great.

For anyone interested, the decks can be downloaded from the E-Learning Council’s site as PDFs. Just follow these links:

Rapid E-Learning Tools

Learning 2.0: Technology Trends in Informal Learning