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The two types of change and how to use them to improve your systems and habits

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

The two types of change and how to use them to improve your systems and habits

Scott Miker

Time to Improve

Despite the constant barrage of signals to change one’s bad habits, it seems that there is a strong driving force that causes us to stick to things that we know we shouldn’t do.  It is the same force that drives us away from new, positive habits that we want to create.  This force is incredibly strong and attacking it means that we will have to deliberately change our behavior in a patterned way until it becomes a new habit.

When I received my MBA I studied change leadership.  One of the perspectives on change looked at evolutionary change versus revolutionary change.  

Evolutionary change is the natural changes that occur to a stable business.  Many large corporations have built up a trusted brand and found their competitive advantages.  Their focus for evolutionary change should be on subtle improvements rather than game-changing initiatives.  They should continue to refine their processes and improve their ability to innovate.

The other type of change is called revolutionary change.  This is when there are critical areas of the business that need to be overhauled.  Small, subtle changes are not typically enough and leadership may need to emphasize the crisis in order to get buy-in from the staff.  With revolutionary change, larger, more drastic changes are necessary.  

There are two great lessons that I learned from studying this.  First, change is all around us and we will never truly avoid it.  Second, the actions and effective leadership styles for evolutionary change typically won’t work for revolutionary change.  There are many differences but revolutionary change needs a strong leader that is willing to move in the direction they feel is best, regardless of how others will view the changes.  They have to be willing to take great risk instead of holding on to the familiar.  

I have worked at an organization that went from evolutionary to revolutionary change in the time I was with the company.  While evolutionary change should have been focused on small improvements over time, the organization instead used the competitive advantage it had established to fund other areas of the company.  Once they lost their competitive advantage they were in a state of revolutionary change, yet leadership was ill-equipped to take the organization where it needed to go.  It was a powerful learning environment but was also very painful to witness.  

We can take the same perspective on our own life.  Looking at our lives as a revolving of evolutionary change and revolutionary change we can find the advantages and exploit them.

During evolutionary change we will likely find that areas of our lives are stable.  We are not transitioning to another career, moving into a new house, or facing a major medical procedure.  During this time we should put our focus on small, subtle improvements.

During revolutionary change we will likely face situations that are not the normal day-to-day activities.  But scientists have researched major life changes and realized that there is a great opportunity here.  We can use these as reasons to start new habits.  When the environmental cues change, we have the ability to change our response.  

Moving into a new house will change the environmental cues that we subconsciously use to trigger a habit.  In other words, we haven’t fully formed the systems and habits in this new environment and they are at their weakest point.  Now is an optimal time to work on developing new, positive habits.  Transitioning to another career will involve a new daily routine.  Use this to consciously create the routine that you desire that will take you where you want to go in life.  Even after a medical procedure, many patients have a new motivation to take control of their health.  Use this to your advantage.

The problem with revolutionary change in our lives is that we typically feel much higher levels of stress and anxiety around major life changes.  Higher levels of stress and anxiety will cause us to rely on old habits for familiarity.  During times of revolutionary change, attention has to be on managing the stress and anxiety in order to truly grow from the experience.

Regardless of where you find yourself, know that change is all around us.  We can choose to evolve and grow over time and utilize life-changing situations to drastically improve the habits in our lives.  There really is no better time than now to start to focus on system and habit improvement.