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Changed by the story

We hear all the time that people don’t change easily, that change is difficult. Organisations engage in expensive processes to make change digestible, to help people understand the new agenda, the new software, the new structure, the new team. We all assume that change is difficult.

Unless it’s driven by fear and presented as the only choice for survival. During the lockdown, millions of people were suddenly forced to work from home. No preparation, no adaptation period, no resources made available. And the astonishing thing is that it worked, at least for some companies, which have reported that their productivity levels went up. In many cases it also had implications around loneliness and mental health, but it’s quite surprising that so many of the things we were taking for granted were not needed for us to do the work.

That creates a lot of questions about what we really need to be productive, and also challenges the idea that change is difficult.

Change has been possible in the pandemic for three reasons: people felt they had no choice, they understood the risk, and they were scared. It’s tempting to use fear, scarcity, or that it’s the only thing that we can do to save lives to create a story that moves people forward. But stories come with responsibilities. 

Sometimes the teller doesn’t want to take that responsibility, and that’s when we, as listeners, can step in.

It’s true. Sometimes it needs to be done, sometimes there are no resources, sometimes there’s no choice, but if the strongest emotion that’s moving you to act is fear, it should ring a bell.

During the pandemic, the people with the best attitude have been those who don’t want to put others at risk rather than from those who don’t want to be infected.

We should judge a story not only by what it asks us to do, but also by the reasons for which we are being asked to act.



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