his famous and brilliant book - Who Moved My Cheese, Dr Spencer Johnson talks about our reaction to change. How eventually we need to control the approach and attitude towards change. He emphasizes in oh so many ways the importance of planning, of foreseeing potential change and controlling what we do when change arrives. I personally 100% agree with this theory and tries to apply it to my work and life.
Then, recently something happened that got me thinking about change from a slightly different angle. The book talks about corridors and stations and contemplates the change in the amount of cheese the different characters have at any given situation and how they react to the change in supply. The mice in the book go through these corridors and hit the different stations and whether the station has cheese in it or not, the corridors and stations all pretty much look the same. The corridors and the stations are there. The infrastructure remains constant. After a while, they stop worrying about the corridors themselves as well as the stations as they are all the same to some degree. But what if if one day, one turn, they face a completely different set of corridors? Maybe narrower walls, no lights, slippery floors, or perhaps loud voices in the air. When something like that happens to us on the infrastructural level our old brain (reptilian brain) tells us to stop. It fears the potential danger. The unfamiliarity stalls us. And hence, the mice will pause, get a bit scared from the unknown. Perhaps turn back to the corridors they do know and are comfortable with or perhaps hesitantly, slowly start exploring the new set of corridors.
You see, once you establish a relationship of sort with your customer, friends, colleagues, there is a set of known parameters that have been established at the beginning of this relationship. If you change them in a way that will alert the old brain of a potential danger it will necessarily push the other side back a bit and you will then have to reciprocate with additional unnecessary efforts to reestablish the trust you worked so hard on to begin with.
Now I am a huge believer of change. But change you can control. Change that triggers positive reactions. Small happy surprises. Change that scratches that emotional positive reaction. I once consulted to a new vegetarian restaurant. In order to trigger that emotional reaction through change I advised them to design the handle on the front door as a vegetable. A tomato they selected. But once a month, they would change the door handle to another vegetable. One month a cucumber, then green pepper, then an eggplant etc. Imagine going for the third time to this restaurant, reaching to the door and realizing for a second there is something different. Then figuring out there used to be a tomato there and now a green pepper. A small smile - “this is cute” you will probably think. And that’s all we need. Our old brain will translate it to - someone is thinking of me, I feel comfortable with this, I am welcomed here and will push you to FEEL you want to come there more. If I were to go into this place that have become familiar to me and as I am standing in, something doesn’t feel right, that would trigger that hesitant reaction I mentioned earlier.
“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” —Woodrow Wilson
I work from home (when I don’t travel) and thanks to my (never officially tested but trust me on this one) ADHD, when I need to focus, movement in the surrounding helps me so I work a lot from the corner Starbucks. Me and the other neighborhood regulars. Mainly older folks who simply love the welcoming ambiance in that specific store. Cozy, warm feeling with couches. Sometimes I wonder if they ever leave...
Recently they renovated it. For a couple of months we all waited patiently to see the outcome. No one asked us. No one consulted with us. Us!! The ones who basically feel they own the place. And then, it happened. They reopened. I felt like a reopening of my own office in a way. Dressed the part I excitingly went to check out my new office. As I walk in the vibe felt wrong. The redesigned the place with less seats, took out the couches and remodeled it to almost on-the-go coffee only. I get the economical aspect, I do but for me, that was it. I felt unwelcome.
It was not just another station with or without cheese like in Dr. Spencer Johnson's book. It was not the same corridor I am so familiar with where maybe a new picture was hung on the wall just to make it a bit different. Someone changed the corridors completely. The entire infrastructure was changed and I choose to play where I am part of the rules. Whether positive or negative the Emotional Relevance impact is the same except for the other direction. If positive it will get you closer and if negative, farther away but will move you the same. You see, someone moved my Starbucks. Make sure the infrastructure remains as stable and as predictable as possible with your customers and utilize some positively surprising small changes. Do not move “their Starbucks” or they will go elsewhere…
Do you think there is free WiFi at Dunkin Donuts?