Lessons for organisational change from Ian Price, author of Headstart: Build a Resilient Mindset So You Can Achieve Your Goals

We were proud to host the first CMI event of 2019 on 9th January.

A big thank you to Ian Price, author of Headstart: Build a Resilient Mindset So You Can Achieve Your Goals for an engaging talk last night which saw us learn more about how building resilience can help us to form and maintain new habits.

Ian introduced us to ‘loft-dweller’ and ‘sofa-man’, two housemates he uses in an analogy to describe the conflict between the primitive, risk-adverse mammalian part of our brain and the more deep-thinking pre-frontal cortex. He then gave us practical tools to reframe our negative beliefs, change our behaviours and apply best practices for habit building, through developing our resilience.

For many people undergoing change, it may feel like having a new habit or resolution imposed on them and we started thinking about how the tips Ian provided about build personal resilience can be applied to us both individually and to the organisations that we support through change.

Ian’s model of resilience, Resilience+ is made up of:

1. Bouncing back

Our ability to do this is affected by ‘sofa-man’ here. His negativity can be heard in the 3 Ps of our inner voice: Personal (I’m not good enough), Permanent (this’ll never work), Pervasive (it didn’t work for company X, why would it work for us?). Many behaviours that we accept are a manifestation of these negative beliefs.

When we encounter resistance to change, we should first listen for these types of statements and ask for the evidence behind them to first determine whether they are valid or perceived.

2. Bouncing forwards

This is the difference between having fixed and a growth mindset. A growth mindset means the ability to perceive challenge and adversity as a learning opportunity (the concept of post-traumatic growth). A growth mindset can be developed using deliberate practice. That is, spending time outside our comfort zone to learn new expertise and to change our perception of difficulty and challenges.

In the change context this may manifest as seeking out those who have made a success of similar situations to act as mentors.

3. Grit

Referencing Angela Duckworth, Ian described how the quality of grit (the passion to persevere) rather than talent is what leads to success. We reach success through baby-steps that we build up over time. The technique of goal mapping can be used to develop and communicate these baby steps.

As a change practitioner, drawing a diagram showing how actions today (baby steps) may lead to shorter term or mid-level goals, and in turn an ultimate vision for change can play a key role in developing grit.

4. Self-control

Scientifically, this has proven to be challenging. When we are exposed to certain behaviours that stimulate the brain’s reward system (a sofa man objective), dopamine floods our prefrontal cortex and reduces its functionality. This means that the rational (loft dwelling) part of the brain is weakened. It is much easier to control your environment so that your will power isn’t tested in the first place, almost boxing your sofa man in.

Ian’s mental contrasting tool (visualising what will cause you to fail and altering your environment accordingly) can be applied beyond removing the biscuit tin when on a diet. Consider the systems you can put into place to make reverting to old behaviours harder than making the change to new ways of working.

5. Focus

Taking lessons from sports to treat our mind in the same way we treat our bodies, working best in concentrated bursts with regular breaks. Research suggests that 45 minutes of work followed by a 15 minutes break is optimum for focus and Ian recommends the practice of mindfulness/meditation to increase your ability focus and regulate emotional control.

B J Fogg’s Behaviour Model

We were particularly interested in B J Fogg’s Behaviour Model, plotting motivation against ease of doing the new behaviour and explained that motivation tends to be fixed for each person. Therefore, if you are not blessed with high motivation, your effort is better spent on finding the right moments in which to do the new behaviour and establishing tangible triggers for those moments. For example, rather than remain overwhelmed by the 1000+ emails clogging your inbox, focus on clearing just 5 every time you have a tea/coffee break.

Ian concluded his presentation by sharing the concept of ‘Implementation Intentions’ – as social animals, we are less likely to give up on our resolutions or changes if we have told others we will do them. We don’t like to let them down. Many attendees applied this tip immediately and can be seen socialising their goals for 2019 in the pictures below.

For organisations, it reminds us of the importance in of working with the organisational psychology in communicating visions for change and celebrating the successes we have. What applies to individual human beings can be applied to groups too. If your organisation could make a New Year resolution what would it be? And how would you help the organisation overcome its ‘mammalian’ instincts and stick at it?