change keeps on changing

“…the core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people and behavior change happens… mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.” ~ John Kotter

We want to believe that us humans are rational beings governed by reason and logic. We really, really want to believe this, despite our entire life experience. As near as I can tell, the strongest thing we can say is that we have the capacity to be rational, but we use nearly all of that capacity to explain, rationalize, and justify the decisions we’ve made with feeling and emotion.

This concept has been studied and demonstrated for years. Advertisers know it and use it to their advantage. They create change by hooking us on feelings of fun, status, sex appeal, freedom, control, power, hope, fear, etc.

Rationally, we know that too much of anything is bad for us. So, if we made rational decisions, none of us would suffer from too much food, alcohol, smoking, etc. Emotion drives us to action, intellect justifies it and makes it reasonable.

There are exactly 1.7 bagillion books, articles, and classes on change and change management. Companies are in turmoil as they try to keep up with the world and the best ones are using change to their advantage to continually evolve.

The problem is that we fall for the myth of rationality and think that big change = analyze à think à change. We look at options, analyze the pros and cons of each, decide, and move forward. When we focus on speaking to emotions it becomes:  see à feel à change. We see or visualize the outcome, feel what it will be like once we have made the change, and then take action.

The problem is that both are an oversimplification and we are driven by both. Some people are more analytical, some are driven more by instinct and emotion, but we all have a deep need to understand the reason behind the change AND emotionally connect to the benefits of the change.

We need both to create the motivation for change in ourselves, in our teams, in our companies. So, what can we do to better address our intellectual and emotional needs around change?

Your take?



  1. Great post. It all starts with knowing what approach it will take to motivate each person at a given point in time. People often swing from analytical decision making to emotional decision making, and the real art is in understanding what approach will work in a given context. That being said, its best to formulate the change messaging so that it touches the rational and emotional needs as well.


    1. Joanne, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I really appreciate your thoughts. You’re right – everyone is different and each of us uses a different approach at different points in time and in different contexts (I’m pretty rational about buying a blender, but not so much about buying a car).


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