Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Recipe For Change

Ever feel like you've "gotten into a rut" in your personal or professional life?

When that saying was coined, it likely referred to physical depressions in a road or field caused by plows or feet treading the same ground over and over again.

What's interesting is how well the metaphor holds up in the age of neuroscience, as we start to learn more about the reality of brain function. It turns out that neural connections that we make frequently (things like driving familiar routes or tying our shoelaces) become ingrained habits. The physical "zapping" of impulses down well-worn nerve pathways helps turn once-challenging tasks, like pronouncing unfamiliar names, into everyday items that we don't have to consciously think about.

While this evolutionary achievement makes life a whole lot easier, it can also mean that we're naturally resistant to change. Why learn to make new brain connections, which can be tough or uncomfortable, when those worn-down ruts are so much easier to navigate in our thinking?

The guest on my Smart Answers podcast this week works with clients whose companies need change. Dr. Andrea Simon, a corporate anthropologist, explains why it is so difficult to achieve that change and why we all need to find different perspectives on our lives.

She is a fascinating interview, so check it out!


  1. This "in a rut" challenge is commonplace in product and company naming too. That is, many companies looking for a new name often prefer "safe" names that are similar to what is already in their marketplace. While this is OK in some cases (like when we named a greener Freon, PURON), it is usually a terrible idea. The new name should differentiate, not be "me too". And the name certainly shouldn't be easily confused with an existing competitor's name. Your Smart Answers podcast sounds like a great idea.

  2. It was a very interesting interview, Mike. I recognized a lot of the same reluctance to change in my own thinking!

    I imagine that with naming, the fear of something totally new might be powerful. One worries about a name or brand that is so different it will be rejected or be seen as ugly or offensive.

    You must have your work cut out for you working with clients who are afraid of the new and different!