Change or Die
The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life
Regan, 2007, 230 pp., ISBN 0-06-088689-7
If you had to change your life patterns to avoid death, could you do it? Many people can't. Heart attack victims don't. Criminals can't. Why not? How can you change yourself? How can you help others change? How can you change your workplace? Deutschman suggests there are three keys and several psychological principles that make the difference. And he demonstrates with a series of actual dramatic examples of individuals and groups. Deutschman is a senior writer at Fast Company and the author of two other books.
There are many misconceptions about change and this book attempts to replace our mistaken trust in facts, fear, and force. (12-13) How do you change when change doesn't come naturally? When difficulties stubbornly persist? When you're stuck?
The three keys are the three Rs: relate, repeat, and reframe.
Relate. "You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope." "The leader or community has to sell you on yourself and make you believe you have the ability to change." (14)
Repeat. "The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you'll need."
Reframe. "The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life."
"New hope, new skills, and new thinking." (15)
The best change research is by John Kotter, professor at Harvard Business School, "who concluded that changing organizations depends overwhelmingly on changing the emotions of their individual members." (21)
Psych Concept #1. Frames: a 'belief system' or a 'conceptual framework'. These are the 'mental structures' that shape how we view the world. (27) "We take the facts and fit them into the frames we already have. If the facts don't fit, we're likely to challenge whether they're really facts or to dismiss the information…" (29) [Alternatively, we may not 'see' the information at all. We may be blind to it. dlm]
Psych Concept #2. Denial and Other Psychological Self-defenses. There are a number of these, such as 'projection,' blaming other people for our own faults, or 'rationalization,' coming up with creative excuses to cover the real motives, etc. (36) "We all live in denial about many scary things." (38) Defense mechanisms are helpful but "they block us from solving our persistent problems. Denial is one of the biggest reasons it's so difficult to motivate other people to change." (39)
Conventional doctors fail to motivate nine out of ten heart patients to change their lifestyles. (42)
The first example is an M.D., Dr. Ornish, who moves heart patients in groups into a hotel where they live together, eat healthy meals from a terrific chef, practice yoga exercises, and have group discussions. His patients have a much greater success rate at ongoing life change.
Key #1 Relate. The patient forms a relationship with a person who inspires hope and also a community of other patients who help each other.
Key #2 Repeat. Patients with normal doctors only get to visit with their physicians for brief appointments. "The doctor doesn't have the time or training to teach patients how to diet or exercise or how to overcome their emotional psychological struggles." (52)
"Ornish understands that habits such as smoking, drinking, overeating, overworking, and venting anger aren't really the 'problems' for heart patients. The real problems are depression, loneliness, isolation, stress, unhappiness, powerlessness, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, and purposelessness. The underlying problems are psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Smoking, drinking, and overeating are 'solutions' to these problems." "What patients really need is to spend more time with human friends. They need to discover greater joy and purpose through greater interconnectedness with others. They need new 'solutions' that don't have the side effect of worsening their heart disease." (53)
Key #3 Reframe. "Physical health actually depends so much on finding meaning and purpose in life through love, friendship, and community." "You need a relationship that helps you 'reframe' and learn new ways of thinking."
Psych Concept #3 Short-Term Wins. "Kotter says it's always vital to identify, achieve, and celebrate some quick, positive results for the emotional lifts they provide." People need 'victories' that nourish faith in the change effort…." (56)
The next example is the Delancey Street program for chronically drug-addicted felons. (61 ff.)
Psych Concept #4. The Power of Community and Culture. In an organization, "the first few dozen people create a culture that's self-perpetuating. Their personalities make up a company's cultural DNA…." "The newcomers try hard to fit in." "If they fit in particularly well, they rise and become role models for the newer hires." "Cultures are not so much planned as they evolve from that early set of people. Once a corporate culture is formed, it tends to be extremely stable. It stays around. It ends up building on itself." (66)
Regarding the people in the Delancey Street program, "The real issue was that they were poor. … The bulk of people filing up the state prisons are just the underclass. … They're people who have no idea how the American middleclass system works. It's a different culture, language, and attitude. It became clear to me that they needed to learn what I had learned. … Millions of poor people had become demoralized. They had lost the hope of moving up in American society." "Powerlessness corrupts." (70)
Psych Concept #5. Acting As If. "How we act influences what we believe and what we feel. That's one of the most counterintuitive yet powerful principles of modern psychology." (78) Even if a person doesn't like a dog, after a few months of taking care of the dog, he will probably develop affection for it. "The act of caring ultimately instills the emotion of care." "You have to do things a new way before you can think in a new way." (79)
Psych Concept #6 Recasting a Life's Story. "We're constantly rewriting our autobiographies in our own minds to make better sense of our past and present and our hopes and plans for the future." (85)
Psych Concept #7 Walk the Walk (Don't just talk the talk.) "Leaders persuade us not just by the stories they tell but also by the lives they lead--by personifying the beliefs and ideals they're advocating." (89) "I don't think a leader can accomplish major change without being willing to slice yourself open and become part of the change." (90)
The third case study is the Fremont, California, General Motors plant that was taken over and run by the Japanese as part of the joint Chevy Nova project.
Changing Your Own Life
"Psych Concept #8 The Brain is Plastic. The brain's ability to change is life long. We can learn complex things in our eighties. But when a person becomes a specialist an inherent 'rigidity' is instilled. "The cumulative weight of experience makes it more difficult to change." "The key is keeping up the brain's machinery for learning." "Unless you work on it, brain fitness begins declining at around age thirty… People mistake 'being active' for continuous learning. The machinery is only activated by learning." (124)
"The idea is to escape from your expertise and become a novice in an entirely different pursuit. It's about taking on challenges that you'll be bad at for quite a while…." "And it's about using different kinds of intelligence--verbal, mechanical, physical, mathematical, and such." "You'll know that you're learning something truly new and different if it's really hard for a long time…." (125)
"Change of every kind is about learning new habits and skills…." "The first key to change is about establishing new relationships…." (126)
"We often prefer to think that change is all about the right process, but what's more important are the people." (137) "Indeed one of the most difficult aspects of profound change is that it often forces you to make a sharp break from the old community that has shaped your belief up until them." (138)
Changing a Loved One
"I don't want to imply that we can or should try to make someone change." "People don't resist change, they resist being changed." "Their 'resistance' is a form of psychological self-defense against the demeaning, condescending, and superior stances of those who assume the knowledge and authority to goad them." (153)
"But the first key to change isn't offering protection or admonition. It's about inspiring hope--the belief and expectation that they can and will change their lives. They need you to believe in them, which encourages their own belief." (155)
Changing Your Company, Organization, or Societal Institution
The same tools can create profound change in the cultures of organizations and institutions. (163) He uses the IBM story as an example.
"Employees form emotional relationships with a new leader who inspires their belief that they can change and their expectation that they will change." (167)
"Gerstner intuitively grasped that those tools wouldn't be nearly enough. He needed to transform the entrenched corporate culture. That meant changing the attitudes and behaviors of hundreds of thousands of employees who were demoralized by the company's failure." "…he needed to make a powerful emotional appeal to get the colleagues 'to believe in themselves again--to believe that they had the ability to determine their own fate.'" (169)
"It was one thing for Lou Gerstner to inspire his people to believe that IBM could change. It was quite another for him to get them to assimilate new ways." (170)
"There are probably a hundred books on culture and they all miss the concept and make it too complex. I have four kids. How do they learn to behave? They watch their parents, and later they watch others whom they respect. Inside a company, people are the same way." (176)
"But you need to walk the walk for a long time before your actions really change the way that people think, feel, and act. After years or decades of experiencing the old ways, people aren't going to believe you when you tell them that things are different now, even if they really are different. People need to experience it first." (177)
Change and Thrive
"When you're locked into the mindset that helped you succeed, then it's difficult even to think about the profound changes you'll have to respond to. But if you practice change, if you keep up your ability to change, if you use it rather than lose it, then you'll be ready to change whenever you have to." (199)
"Eventually the world changes, or our solutions are undermined by the problems they create." "No matter how successful we are in whatever we do, it's still vital to keep learning--to become successful at something else, something new. And the way to learn is from other people." "If you're going to change, at the very least you need a virtual relationship with a person or community through a book, for example, or a tape recording or a video." (201)
"We feel motivated by seeing 'people like us' who are succeeding at new tasks. We know the value of inspiring teachers and enthusiastic mentors. We appreciate the value of hands-on experiential learning, and practice, and repetition, and modeling our own behavior on the examples of our teachers and our peers. The catch is that we need to think of change as learning." (102)
"The process of change can be threatening, so it often helps if we learn new skills and mindsets through relationships with people who feel comfortable and familiar because they share our old skills and mindsets." (203)
"The fearful connotations of Change or Die may have been enough to get you to buy or borrow this book, but I quickly substituted a message about the importance of new hope and new thinking, which is what sustains change. Instead of Change or Die, think Change and Thrive." (204)
* * * * *
Your comments and book recommendations are welcome.
To discontinue receiving book notes, hit Reply and put Discontinue in the text.