Why people will not change

I know that some will argue that I am getting into a semantic discussion but in this case I believe it entirely appropriate.  As we know, we are bombarded today with the need for change as it pertains to both individuals and organizations.  There is constant talk of the increasing rate of change and that we need to be able to adapt and embrace change in order to thrive and survive.  I agree in concept with those observations and accept that things are changing at an almost alarming pace and that we can, in fact, be left behind if we do not engage in the process.  The gauntlet that I am throwing down is that people should not, can not, and will not CHANGE.  Having said that,  I do believe in an individuals capacity to GROW.

Here are a few definitions to get the conversation started


  • To become altered or modified
  • To become transformed or converted
  • To make the form, nature, content, future course etc. of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone


  • To increase by natural development, as any living organism or part by assimilation of nutrient
  • To arise or issue as a natural development from an original happening, circumstance, or source
  • To come to by degrees

After reading these, how many people would rather be “changed” or given the ability to “grow”?  Here are some thoughts on one versus the other:

  • Change is done to us while growing is a choice.
  • Growing is a natural process that is done over time.  Change is usually on a much tighter time table
  • Most people like who they are and do not really want to change.  If given the proper feedback and support, many of these same people would embrace the opportunity to grow.

I know that changing the word choice is fairly insignificant but it could be extremely impactful if people began to embrace the implications of the terminology.  There is so much talk about changing organizations, the cultures within companies, the way we do business, the business model, the business strategy, and a myriad of other things but the the talk that is missing is about the real issue.  Any and all of these “changes” requires the PEOPLE that comprise the organization (the definition of an organization is “a group of persons organized for some end or work”) to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY.  They will have to act, think, and/or believe differently if the organization is to be successful.  It is the cumulative result of all of the individual actions that may or may not produce the desired effect.  That is why change initiatives so frequently fail.  We forget we are not changing a THING we are trying to change PEOPLE and that is something most are not prepared to tackle.

Change is ubiquitous and perhaps the real issue we face is that acceptance that it is our need for growth that will never stop.  Human beings innately seek homeostasis or stability.  We like when things are predictable so we can fool ourselves into believing we have control.  That is the fundamental truth that is being challenged so we take control wherever we can and sometimes that is when others try to make us change.

Some time ago I heard this saying that has made a regular appearance in my lexicon, “A rising tide raises all boats”.  Perhaps if we changed our mindset and began to see the ultimate goal as striving to help each other continuously grow & improve, there would be less need for change initiatives?  Just a thought…



Filed under Adaptation, Emergence, Leadership, Systems Thinking, The Human Condition

3 responses to “Why people will not change

  1. I like the way you think! The distinction between the words “change” and “grow” is a very useful and important one. “Change” feels like something that has been done TO me. “Grow” feels like something I can choose to do. “Grow” is deliciously selfish, in a good way. When we grow, we also – by inference – grow others.

    • Perry

      Mary Jo,
      I have been thinking about this for sometime and the thought finally crystallized earlier this week. Probably due to the fact that I grew up in a rural part of Ohio so the growing metaphor works for me.

      Thanks for the comment

  2. Rob Sanders

    Your rising tide through this article has certainly raised this boat. Thanks so much for your comments on growth. Change stinks! Growth resulting in the positive change is priceless! Appreciate your article. Thanks so much!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s