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Are we good at change?

In just a few weeks our way of life has changed in ways that would have previously been unimaginable. According to the World Economic Forum around 2.6 billion people are now in some form of quarantine or lockdown. Our priority right now, of course, is to keep people safe, protect our NHS and support the heroic efforts of our frontline workers. Looking to the future though, what can we learn from this change and how can we apply that experience to those changes that really matter?

I’ll say it again, 2.6 billion people (at least one third of the global population) have fundamentally changed their lifestyle in a matter of weeks.

There are so many great causes that struggle with gaining traction, whether it’s at work, in society or globally. Look at the global climate change problem for a start, we’ve been battling that one for at least 50 years and it threatens to be at least as catastrophic as COVID-19, if not more so.

I hear regularly that the reason initiatives don’t move quickly enough is because in general people don’t like change. I’m sometimes told it’s just a thing we have to accept and we just have to push harder. The past few weeks prove beyond any reasonable doubt that this can’t be true. We haven’t and couldn’t possibly have pushed 2.6 billion people to these changes in a matter of weeks.

So why has such a global change happened so quickly? And yet why do much smaller changes, such as a new IT system or new product initiative, seem like mission impossible?

Maybe it’s time to get curious. What can we learn from the past few weeks about changing human behaviour at scale? How can we use this learning to achieve more of those changes that matter?

In the end each and every one of us made our own decision and changed our own behaviour and that’s the key ingredient to any change. In other words success depends on how well we get any group of people to choose for themselves to do what’s needed.

I’ll be exploring this topic in more detail in the coming weeks and would love to hear your thoughts too.