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What can science, medicine and nature teach us about transformation?

By Bradley de Souza | Oct. 20, 2016
Tips on transformation.

The speed with which a species responds ultimately determines its success. The most successful species expand beyond boundaries and survive in very different environments, often simultaneously.

Bradley de Souza

Why is success is optional?

The identified management problems often result in change projects being re-baselined and re-phased. They frequently deliver a fraction of the original business case. This fractional change is then magnified and sold back to the business as significant change.

Executive sponsors feel politically pressured to oversell under performing transformation initiatives rather than admit mistakes and make corrections. This can result in point solutions which pave the way for more problems because they don't address the underlying issues. In the same way certain medicines mask the pain without treating the problem, thereby allowing the affected patient to carry on as normal until disaster inevitability strikes.

Learning from health

Just as we can learn from nature, we can also learn from medical science. Doctors and scientists have long studied how humans deal with change. These studies can give us insight into how we shape change for the best outcome.

A case in point, which is has been well documented and ongoing, is the human obesity epidemic. Despite significant investment in promoting change to improve health and well being, research tells us that the odds of sustainable change are not favourable.

According to a research study from King's College, London, the odds of achieving and sustaining a minimal 5 per cent reduction in weight over five years are thousands to one against.

In many similar related studies, researchers across the world also found that people consistently underreport their calories consumed. Is this analogous to the over-reporting of progress and success we see with corporate change initiatives?

It may seem strange to use this type of research and compare it to something entirely different, like business change. There are however, common and valid elements which bridge the gap between the domains: people and behaviour.

Analysing people and their subsequent behaviour in one area can give us insight into how things might work in another area. The findings behind why people fail to make health changes even in the most dire of circumstances can help us better understand how to make business change more effective.

Continuing the health analogy, transformation or change agents can be regarded like immunosuppressant drugs given to transplant patients. The longer the drugs are administered, the greater the chance the body has to accept the transplant. Once the drugs are stopped, unless the transplant has been precisely matched to the patient, the rejection process will begin and the transplant will fail.


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