Driving behavioral change

In trying to convert myself from my ThinkPad to a Mac I am driving my own behavioral change e.g. I'm slowly learning to insert my signature block manually on emails (Mac) – rather than it appearing automatically (ThinkPad), and stopping myself thinking what a ridiculous waste of time doing this is but instead getting to a level of automaticity to press the signature block key(s) before inadvertently sending with no signature block.

So when I saw a white paper from Pilat land in my inbox called 'Driving Behavioral Change' with a note from the sender saying "the thing that I find very interesting from this is the fact that individuals receive change in the brain in a way that pain is received, completely fascinating" I stopped tormenting myself with the Mac and turned to read the white paper.

It's a basic paper making an initial point that:

Over the last 20 years, the integration of psychology and neuroscience has provided a new view of human nature and behavior change. The use of imaging technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs) and positron emission tomography (PET) have identified formerly unseen neural connections in the living human brain.

One of the unsurprising conclusions that can be drawn from this research is that change is linked to pain – even when the change appears to be in an individual's best interests. It appears that our brains are programmed to resist change. We become comfortable with our habits – they require much less energy and use just one part of the brain.

The author, Rhonda Miller, does not cite any references for these assertions, which I think, is a pity because they are pretty significant. And the idea that 'our brains are programmed to resist change' suggests an inherent rigidity and external agency that presents the complexity of the brain in a overly simple way.

However, Lewin's and Schein's theories on managing change are well embedded in organizational behavior thinking – although they have moved on in the last ten years or so (again something that is not touched on in this paper). A useful text that gives more information on this is John Miner's book "Organization Behavior 4: From Theory to Practice"

Miner has written extensively on organization behavior and a paper that I felt was particularly useful was a paper he wrote: The rated importance, scientific validity, and practical usefulness of organizational behavior theories: A quantitative review: (See John B Miner. Academy of Management Learning & Education. Briarcliff Manor: Sep 2003.Vol.2, Iss. 3; pg. 250).

This paper analyzes rated importance, extent of recognition, validity, and usefulness of 73 established organizational behavior theories, differentiating between the views of judges with expertise in organizational behavior and in strategic management. The results indicate an increasingly mature science with many more positive relationships among the variables considered than existed previously. The findings have major implications for learning and education activities, such as textbook writing and organizational behavior course design in that they indicate which theories should be stressed and which should be given minimal, if any, attention at different levels of the educational process.

Clearly Miner and Pilat have different audiences in mind for their papers. So although I found the Pilat paper overly simplistic it did work to remind me (again) that 'all models are wrong, some models are useful'. As far as my Mac learning goes I have turned from the change model described in the Piloat paper to the more reassuring four stages of competency model . This is a learning styles model predicated on the theory that learners move through the four stages of unconscious incompetence , conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. to achieve mastery of a skill. Personally, I reject the notion that I am resistant to change and that it is painful to try changing, preferring to think that I am going through a staged learning process where I will achieve mastery over the Mac. I don't know what that tells me about my brain function.

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