In a previous post I wrote about the cycle of experience and about the stages that we all go through as we interact with the world around us. We all can and do interrupt this process as often as we complete it. One example at an individual level would be feeling hungry but being in a meeting, so my need to stay is stronger than my need to find food. If we increase the scale of this to the organisational level then we begin to see where organisational resistances can kick in, i.e. I know that we need to change but my desire to maintain the current environment is greater.

There are other ways that the cycle can be interrupted (and these interruptions can happen at any of the stages). Called Modifications to Contact, these are creative adjustments that individuals and organisations employ to break the Cycle of Change. Sometimes this can be done in awareness and sometimes it is done as part of a habitual response, these two methods of interrupting the cycle can be linked back to system 1 and system thinking in Behavioural Economics. When modifications are made using awareness (or system 1) they come as a result of an individual or organisation consciously deciding that a need should be denied in someway. It is when this decision is made in an unaware (or system 2) state that problems arise.

Unaware modifications to the cycle prevent systems from moving forwards in a habitual and hard to overcome way. There are six methods of modification (see below) and each of them has different characteristics and can be diagnosed and handled with separate types of activity. What is important to understand before engaging in any remedial actions is the type of modification being employed that needs to be addressed.

  • Desensitisation
  • Introjection
  • Projection
  • Retroflection
  • Deflection
  • Confluence

The purpose of the Cycle of Change, in psychological terms, is to step outside our comfort zone to encounter realities that are different from our own. And this holds true for both individuals and organisations, you need only look at the effects that ‘Thinking outside of the bank’ have begun to bring to the business in terms of a better understanding of why we need to change and how. These cycles can be experienced in all kinds of ways, from the worst to the best but they all change us through letting us contact realities that are different from our own.

Contact enables our growth; it challenges our assumptions; it requires risk; it forces us to reconsider what we hold to be true; in doing so, it invites our personal and collective evolution. If we fail to complete cycles in a natural way we cease being part of a wave of change created by individuals – like snowflakes or grains of sand contributing to an avalanche – we become an obstacle, a creature of inertia.

Not every contact will be good or pleasant but we grow a little more with each one until growth and evolution become a natural part of our DNA. Cycles of pain can teach us far more about ourselves and others than any plain sailing ever could. It is through experiencing change and growth during difficult times that we become able to more smoothly handle cycles of change.

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