It’s happening again—and I predicted it. This time it’s with “Pinterest,” the latest social media phenomenon that’s gone super viral almost overnight. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I heard the familiar words: “How stupid. They’re doing what? What’s a pin? Why don’t those people get a life? What a total waste of time. Doesn’t anybody work anymore? It’ll be gone tomorrow.” [Yeah, like Facebook?!] And it continues on.
When I ask these naysayers one question, the answer is predictable, too: “Have you tried it?” “No, I have better things to do.” I don’t even bother going further with, “Well, how do you know it’s a waste of time until you’ve tried it…” like my mother always asked. I learned a long time ago that there is no point. Minds have been made up. End of discussion.
Since this is such a predictable response, I’ve been wondering whether on deeper analysis, it could have some advantages that we’ve missed. For example, measuring just how often and how strongly people say, “I hate that but no, I haven’t tried it,” could be a new diagnostic tool to determine whether or not this is someone you want to date—or god forbid, even marry. Or to decide whether you want your children playing with someone who scores particularly high. High in what, you ask? Oh, take your pick. Negativity, judgmental attitude, change averse, new idea averse, learning averse.
Just yesterday, a friend told me how angry he was because everyone at work had been given an IPad and was expected to use it immediately. He exclaimed, “I don’t need or want an ipad. I don’t watch movies on the thing; I don’t play games. My laptop works just fine, thank you, and I won’t use it!” However, this morning, I received an email—from his IPad– with only one 2 characters: : )
Having an initial negative reaction is a lot different than having one and hanging on to it for dear life—forever. I’m aware that folks with a “never change” approach play an important role in the workplace. They can keep us “new idea a minute/love change” folks from throwing out, not only the baby and the bathwater, but the tub and the whole house.
I agree that some things should not be changed, because they work well. But the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” died a long time ago. Forty years ago, Demming’s research on total quality improvement showed that incremental improvement is almost always possible in the workplace—and can lead to revolutionary change.
To be fair, I fully understand that some personality traits are inherited and impacted by early childhood and/or trauma—and are fairly fixed by age 30. I also know that brain chemistry is something we are still in infancy learning about. In fact, with my clients, I use a personality assessment that’s been heavily researched and validated. The Workplace Big 5 Profile identifies the degree to which people resist or embrace change and how they rank on an optimism-pessimism continuum. We may be programmed to like or dislike change, see the glass as half full or half empty, but we also have choices about how we manage our programs. People don’t have to say, “I don’t like that” or “That won’t work,” as the first thing out of their mouths every time they hear something new or different They could teach themselves to say, “That’s new to me; tell me more,” or “Help me understand,” etc.
Choice. It’s the magic word that separates us from the apes. The world would be a nice place if some of us exercised it more.