the formula for change

The Formula for Change

Ideas change everything. How we live. What we wear. How we communicate. What we eat. How we exercise. Where we travel.

What makes us human is the desire to make things better. We respond to the world around us with ideas. Ideas that improve, develop, and enhance. Ideas that create change.

From ancient civilisations to modern-day, each generation builds upon the ideas of the last, sometimes developing them, sometimes reacting against them, but always using them as tools for innovation and transformational change. Ideas are what keep us moving forward.

As businesses, we want to create change. We want to make things better. We want to help people. Without change, we cannot grow. Out of this desire for positive change, a growing movement of businesses has emerged who want to leave this world better than they found it. They want to use their organisations as powerhouses for good, shaping innovative business models with transformation at their heart.

These businesses are loved not just for the products and services they offer, but for the change they are making.

But how does change happen? How can we create it? How can we shape a culture of change and use it to help our organisations grow?

The formula for change.

There is no formula for great ideas, but there is a formula for change.

Also known as the ‘change model’ or ‘the change equation’, the formula for change was created by David Gleicher in the 1960s and published by Richard Beckhard.

Used by organisations to assess the strengths and success of a project, the formula for change calculates change potential, identifies change barriers, and defines the overall likelihood of transformational change.

C = D × V × F > R

D= Dissatisfaction with how things are

V= Vision of what is possible

F= First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision

R= Resistance to change

Meaningful change happens when the combination of dissatisfaction with how things are, a clear vision of a better future, and the possibility of immediate action are greater than the resistance to change.

The multipliers in this formula are important– if the value of any of these factors is low or zero, then change will also be low or zero.

For real transformation to take place, three factors need to be present: dissatisfaction, vision, and first steps, and we need to eliminate all barriers to change.

Dissatisfaction with how things are.

All innovation starts in this zone. Discontent with the current reality and an acceptance that things cannot and should not continue ‘as normal’.

Often when we experience discontent, it can be easy to persevere. To put up with it, to blame others, to lose hope altogether; ‘I can’t make a difference’, ‘things will never change, so why bother trying’. We acknowledge things need to change, but we don’t want to rock the boat, so we admit defeat, struggle on, and choose to do nothing about it.

Blind acceptance of the status quo is one of the biggest barriers to change. But we can channel that discontent into fuel to create transformation.

We can recognise discontent as a sign that things need to change. That we can’t carry on as normal, that we need to slow down and hone in on the root cause of our discontent. When we get to the heart of the issue, we can then start to envision a better future.

Instead of being hopeless, we can be positive in our discontent: ‘This isn’t right– what can I do about it?’ We can refuse to accept things that aren’t working and channel that discontent into shaping a new future story.

To create meaningful change, everyone in an organisation needs to experience dissatisfaction with the status quo. When everyone feels it, it becomes a common cause that fuels purpose, innovation, and transformation.

People become more open to change when they feel seen and heard. To discover the overall attitude to the status quo, talk to the people in your organisation. Really listen to them, empathise with them, and make their opinions feel valued. Then you will be able to understand the mix of blind acceptance, dissatisfaction, or indifference and use that to get everyone on the same page.

Vision of what is possible.

To create change, we need to have a vision. A clear picture of the future we are working towards.

Where do you see your organisation in ten years time? What change do you want to create? What could that look like?

When articulated well, a vision can inspire people to take action. Tell a compelling story of how the future could be, and you will inspire others to rally behind your cause.

A vision is only powerful when people support it. Communicate your vision in a way that matters to people. It will become the fuel for creating change. For helping you grow. For energising you and inspiring your team. For defining who you are and what you stand for. For leading the way ahead.

Get everyone clear and on board with the vision. Share it far and wide. Use it to inform decisions. Never lose sight of it.

For real change to take place, we need to remain flexible on details, but stubborn on vision.

First concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.

We’ve got the vision– now how can we use it to create change?

The next step is taking immediate action.

For change to be successful, we need to take the first meaningful, actionable steps towards our imagined future and focus on bringing our vision to life.

To achieve our vision, we need to focus on our ‘how’. How we can reflect on and plan for the future. How we can ensure the choices we are making are truly the right ones. How we can use our values to guide us in the way forward. How we can actively work towards the future we wish to create.

As businesses, our most precious resource is time. If we don’t take the time to put the wheels in motion, our vision will remain just that– a vision. We need to figure out and implement the steps to make our vision a reality and these concrete steps need to be achievable in order for meaningful change to take place.

Resistance to change.

‘Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock.’ –James A. Baldwin

There will always be those that actively resist change. Those that are stuck in their ways. Those that do things because ‘that’s the way things have always been done’. Those that experience dissatisfaction with the status quo but choose to do nothing about it. Those that view change as a risk and actively oppose it out of a deep fear of the unknown.

The human resistance to change is something we all experience. But without change, we cannot grow. If we want to create real transformation, we need to find ways to overcome this resistance.

Reframing uncertainty as an opportunity for change.

As humans, we’re programmed to question the unknown– ‘What if things go wrong?, ‘what if I fail?’

But we can challenge our fear by embracing uncertainty as an opportunity for change.

We can challenge our fear by being agile and resilient in the face of crisis and uncertainty. By embedding flexibility and adaptability into our cultural DNA. By being prepared. By accepting that change is a natural part of life we cannot control, but recognising that we can control our response to it. By believing deeply in our vision of what is possible and doing everything in our power to make that vision a reality.

Without change, we cannot grow.

To build a better future, our desire to make things better needs to outweigh our resistance to change. As organisations, we need to deeply believe in our future story and use it as a tool to leave this world better than we found it.