Change and the organizational subconscious!

It’s universally accepted that most of our lives are run by the subconscious mind, in other words we typically react to the stimuli around us without thinking. I hope this isn’t a surprise. If the conscious mind is not focused on a particular activity it is being run by the subconscious, old patterns that just run…run your life, run the organization. Despite our desire to change, the subconscious mind is constantly sabotaging us without us knowing, because the subconscious is in charge. When I think of the power of the subconscious, I’m amazed that we are able to change at all.

Recently, my daughter’s physiotherapist informed her that she needed to make changes to her bio-mechanics. As a representative athlete it was critical that she adjust her bio-mechanics in order to activate key muscles to enhance performance. Following months of rehabilitation and excellent results, last week she was once again sitting in the physio’s office addressing the old patterns that have re-emerged. It dawned on me that the challenge to change is all around us, not just mentally, but physically and despite ones efforts to displace old patterns, they are just waiting to re-emerge.

The subconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind…imagine that, the conscious mind is generating 40 bits of data versus the subconscious mind accessing 40 million bits of data. The conscious mind focuses on the now and the subconscious mind manages everything else (old habits). Imagine how difficult it is to battle a force that’s a million times more powerful.

It makes sense when author Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit –

“It may seem like most organizations make rational choices based on deliberate decision making, but that’s not really how companies operate at all. Instead, firms are guided by long-held organizational habits, patterns that often emerge from thousands of employees’ independent decisions. And those habits have more profound impacts than anyone previously understood.”

The power of patterns and the influence of the subconscious are tough to deal with and it appears that there is also an organizational subconscious that holds us back from change. So while most firms claim that they are embracing change and innovation, the research shows that most of these change initiatives fail. So the key question I leave you with is how do we help employees and organizations take on new behaviors…that are sustainable? How do we change the organizational subconscious?

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