Apr 30, 2013
Posted in category: 2013 Member Articles

Why is change so painful for adults?

Have you ever watched a little child trying to learn a new skill? Typically children try over and over again, with a visible enthusiasm and eagerness until they have embraced their new skill. On the other hand, if they do not learn fast enough, it can end in a hysterical tantrum.

Why does this eagerness and curiosity disappear when we become adults? However, many people might still enjoy learning the new functionalities when buying a new electronic device for themselves. Yet when we talk about work related tools, where we do not necessarily see any direct benefits, it can feel like anything new or different causes a lot of frustration. Rather, we would prefer to continue using Excel macros from the nineties rather than learn to use a new user interface. Especially, if it means that you have to slightly change your way of doing something. You try to come up with any excuse in order to delay the implementation of the new system. Sometimes you even see people having a nervous breakdown when things do not go the way they want.

However, technological evolution is inevitable, and it eventually becomes clear that you just have no choice but to adopt the change programs at some point. From the point of view of a company, the setbacks in adopting the new system means delays in the pay-back times on investments, or in higher maintenance costs, because you have to run two systems at the same time.

Education is one way to get children to adopt and learn new skills.  However, teaching a new skill is not always so straight forward: while pupils in the first grade are anxious to learn, conversely a teacher of young adults has to put a lot of effort into just motivating the students to attend school.

Leading people through change seems to have a lot in common with educating teenagers. A good start is to have the students to come to class and be present and stay. After that, it would be great if you could get the students to focus on what is being taught instead of browsing on the Internet with their smartphones. A break through is near, on top of all the above stated, you manage to convince them to lose their “whatever” attitude, even for a brief moment. Actually the break through is possible to achieve if you build your classes in a way that the student can relate to the topics presented so that learning becomes more meaningful to them.

The same seems to apply when teaching adults, especially when dealing with change programs where it is not enough to only learn a new system, instead the change requires adopting a new role, different ways of working, and even a change of mindset. As with teenagers, taking people through change programs requires time, patience, imagination, innovative methods and, above all, an ability to listen and respect a person who is struggling on the journey through change.

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