In an earlier post I discussed Efrat’s cloud, a very simple way to describe why we resist change. Efrat’s cloud explains that in order for us to be happy we need satisfaction and security. Our need for satisfaction creates a pressure on us to want to change while the need for security creates a pressure on us to not want to change. When we try to achieve both the result is resistance to change.
A colleague pointed out to me that as much as we desire satisfaction and change our brains are hard wired to keep us safe. Anything that causes a threat to our security will cause us to behave in a particular way. It will either be a flight or fight response. Either response is designed to avoid change and protect us.
Depending on our experience and preferences how we resist change will be unique to each of us. If you accept the following research then this means each of us has a unique potential.
In 2001, Dr. Robert Kegan and Dr. Lisa Lahey, published How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work. It laid out a similar approach to Efrat’s Cloud (in a table format) that shows the dynamic that prevents change and preserves the status quo.
In 2009 they called this phenomenon our “immunity to change”. In their book titled Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization they show us how our individual beliefs, along with the collective mind-sets in our organisations, combine to create a natural but powerful immunity.
Reframing “resistance to change” as “immunity to change” Kegan and Lahey go on to show us how to pinpoint and uproot our immunity so we can use it to unlock our potential and move forward. To do this we must we must recognise that there is a (often hidden) secondary commitment that works to maintain our security. Once the secondary committment has been discovered it is possible to find a way to have our security, to change, achieve higher levels of satisfaction and more happiness.
In short it enables us to have a breakthrough.
Here is Robert Kegan on immunity to change: