Tap into your imagination, make decisions, create change, move at pace

Big change is hard and rarely works and trying to change a culture takes a very long time. Breaking change down into smaller more achievable stages e.g. eating the elephant one bite at a time, feels like common sense and more achievable. Not unlike anything in life where you get better at something step by step.  

Willpower will get you so far but often fear of the unknown and the unknown consequences of what you’re about to do get in the way.

Digital transformation started with organisations realising they needed to change and have digital ingrained in their DNA and so they traditionally set in motion a 5 year strategy and plan to do so.

Some of these transformation programmes have failed to gain any real traction because the timeline to see real change is too long and they looked and felt like the big tech projects of the 90’s where the tech was out of date by the time it was developed and launched and everyone lost interest and ability to maintain the required momentum.

It feels now like we’re moving from the big Digital Transformation 20/20 strategies into more ‘visions’ of what the organisation needs to look like underpinned by more agile ‘doing’ incremental approaches to change.

Agility and gaining agility in a business is the next step on from any Digital Transformation initiative in that you know why you need to change and what needs to change, the rest is about what (impact) and when (time).

However we often don’t know how to move fast, or better still at pace, in order to show change quickly so as to onboard or gain the buy in from others and maintain momentum.

A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science, Dissociable Contributions of Imagination and Willpower to the Malleability of Human Patience By Adrianna C. Jenkins and Ming Hsu, hints at the key to making better decisions may be to think of your life as a series of chain reactions, with each choice setting a new sequence in motion.

Just think about that for a second 

‘a series of chain reactions, with each choice setting a new sequence in motion.’

Results suggest that sequence framing (classic framing manipulation) can increase the role of imagination in decision making without increasing the exertion of willpower.

The way a choice is framed affects the subjects’ brain activity. Those presented with a simple this-or-that choice showed more activity in areas associated with willpower, while those asked to consider a sequence of events had more activity in areas linked to imagination.

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The latter option just might be a more effective way of getting you to consider the consequences of what you’re about to do or the change that’s about to take place.

As study co-author Adrianna Jenkins put it in a statement:

“Willpower might enable people to override impatient impulses after they’re formed, whereas imagining future consequences might affect the formation of the impulses themselves.”

So imagining future consequences could reduce the formation of negative impulses themselves and if these were smaller changes wouldn’t they also be more acceptable?

Now this got me thinking about the other key factor involved in change programmes, that of time, or our notion of speed, or even better and as we see it, the pace of transformation.

In any transformation journey, not everything changes at the same rate or pace.

In the book, Building the Agile Business, we talk about Pace layering a concept explained by Stewart Brand in his book The Clock of the Long Now.

Pace layering sets out six layers that function and evolve simultaneously at different speeds within society. From fastest to slowest: fashion; commerce; infrastructure; governance; culture; nature.

We’ve taken this concept of pace layering and applied it to Digital Transformation process with elements that develop and evolve at different timescales and speeds. Broadly, from fastest to slowest, from responding to rapidly shifting customer interaction on a continuous basis to cultural change which takes the longest time to transform.

There just might be a connection between moving at pace, or pace layering, breaking change down into smaller more achievable stages, and tapping into your imagination to enable you to engage more than just willpower.


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