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  • Marc Breetzke, M.A., M.A.

The Two Central Psychological Principles Behind Resistance to Change

Transformation programs and initiatives seem to move slow and progress appears to stall or even to be stuck? There are psychological forces in your team's psyche that hinders your corporate culture to change.

It is not surprising that many companies and organizations struggle with change and transformation. While there are many false premises under which managers and executive operate when it comes to that subject (at which we'll take a look again in another article) the most common mistake they do is to underestimate the power of two central psychological principles that operate in everybody. I call them the two principles of mediocrity.


As we go about these mechanisms in our mind, please check whether you yourself fall into the seductive habit of saying or thinking these words (or similar ones). Maybe you know someone (maybe where you work) who utters statements that remind you of them. As a consultant, if I come across these principles in one way or another, they represent of a red flag that signals resistance to positive change.

Principle of Mediocrity #1: "We've always done it like that."

As I talk with new clients and I always want to know what is the motivation behind their way of behaving and their processes - why they do what they do. If the answer is verbatim "because we've always done it that way" that's a red flag.


A couple of years ago, I was involved with trade show consulting. I would train the teams how to communicate better and how to achieve their marketing and sales objectives. One of the first questions I'd ask was, "why do you go to the trade show." And the answer was more often than not "because we go every year." Red flag. That's the best reason to stop going.


However, I am usually not satisfied with this answer, and therefore, I continue to dig. That's when the second principle often rears its ugly head:

Principle of Mediocrity #2: "Everbody else is doing it."

This, in fact, is the second best reason to stop what you're doing. These principles are engrained in our minds so that our habitual behavior keeps its momentum and we don't really think about the purpose behind our actions.


Where do these principles come from? Well, they are the exact way we learn and become socialized in our formative years. We start dressing the way we dress and eating what we eat because the people in our environment do it. We do what the others are doing. And, we continue doing those things, repeating them over and over, until we begin to say "we've always done it like that."


In transformation processes it is crucial that we are not only aware of these principles but that we take their momentum and turn it into productive and constructive behavior.


What is your experience with those principles, do they look familiar to you? We are eager to learn about your perspective.


#transformation #psychologoy #leadership #strategy

About the author:

Marc Breetzke, M.A., M.A. is the founder of MB Inspirations and Europe's leading strategy expert. He works as a consultant, trainer, coach, speaker, and lecturer all over the world for large, international businesses (e.g. Fortune 500) and leaders. He studied Strategic Communications in Germany and in the United States. Today, he operates from his head-office in Stuttgart, Germany.

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