Overcoming the Inertia of Complacency

I have been trying to get more exercise of late, so I decided to start getting up early and going for a walk. Not a terribly long walk, I haven’t even measured the distance, but it takes me about twenty minutes. The first day was easy. I shut of the alarm, took a minute to remind myself why I was waking up early, got out of bed, got dressed and went for the walk.

The second morning didn’t start as easily. The alarm went off, and I hit the snooze button twice before I was able to convince myself to get out of bed and get dressed.  Once I got outside into the nice, bright, New England morning, my spirits lifted, and I was, of course, glad that I had gotten up to take the walk when it would have been so much easier to stay in bed, as I had always done before.

I’ve always found it interesting how much we are creatures of habit. Once the inertia of doing things a particular way takes hold, it becomes very difficult to change, for example sleeping late instead of getting up early to take a walk. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes perfect sense. When humans were hunters, once we learned a successful hunting technique, we used it without change, precisely because it was successful…enough. Our primitive brains went into “auto pilot”; we no longer had to think too much about what we were doing, which meant that we could devote our brainpower to other things… like preventing ourselves from being eaten by other predators.

But what happens when what used to be successful no longer is?

We have two choices, continue doing things the way we always have, or change.

The CIOs and senior managers I talk with on a daily basis all understand that change is a part of corporate life. Technology advances, needs change, new services become available, and staffing levels and budgets fluctuate.  The interesting thing is that in spite of these sweeping environmental changes, a number of these same people have become complacent, insisting on doing things the same way they have always done them, because it is comfortable and “it has always worked before”. You can meet these people at trade shows, networking events and conferences; they’re usually in the group of executives “in transition”.

Success today means being able to embrace change.

Being adaptable, flexible, able to anticipate and react to change is the key to survival in the corporate environment.  Finding newer, better, and more flexible, scalable services and technologies to help achieve the goals of the business, and discarding the old, ineffective ones, regardless of how used to them you are, is difficult, but it is what ultimately brings both individual and corporate success.

Alan Guibord, Founder and Chairman of The Advisory Council (TAC) has been spending the last two years traveling around the United States and Canada speaking to leaders about transforming themselves and their departments. His sessions “Transform or Die” and “Migrating from a Technologist to a Trusted Leader” detail the change process on personal, professional, and corporate levels.

Overcoming the inertia of complacency is difficult but doable. It takes serious sustained effort and requires you to step out of your comfort zone. However, through repeated and sustained effort to see and accept change as the new normal, change itself becomes the habit, as comfortable as a walk on a warm, sunny New England morning.