Imagine the following situation: You are in the stone age with the “hunter gatherers”. You have a safe cave, and even fire already, the hunting grounds are still OK, even if things are not as they once were. Berries and fruit also grow here, however a fire has destroyed some things, so that over the next few years it will no longer be possible obtain the full yield. You have all set it up, there is water flowing from a nearby source. Everybody is set up in this comfort zone, or, as we HMC change managers and business coaches say: the Optimal Zone (OpZ) is clearly defined.
Now a feeling stirs in you, saying to you that this will not be good for much longer. Maybe the entire clan (team or organization) needs to re-orientate itself and even be on the look out for new hunting grounds etc. In other words: You think you should be on the look out for a new OpZ. What do you think is going on with your clan? Full approval and everybody is behind you? What is at the forefront: “Fear about giving up the current OpZ or the desire for the positive reward of looking for new, abundant hunting and gathering grounds, i.e. a new OpZ?
What are we trying to say with this example?
Be aware that – regardless of the change – for us humans, the greatest positive reward is safeguarding the current status quo, the current OpZ! Even if this is already associated with real or perceived painful conditions. In the worst case, the current pain is the recognized feeling of “I’m still alive, thank goodness!”
The example above indicates that this thing from our past was somehow also sensible, right? Giving up your hunting and gathering grounds so frivolously was and is certainly not necessarily an evolutionary advantage. It is probable that a change was also often only possible with huge concerns or fears.
Today, this has been widely researched at a neuro-biological level. Our brains contain what is known as the limbic system. There are two important players here. The amygdala, the fear center, and the mesolimbic system, the positive reward system. Even if the word “fear” is almost shunned in the context of organizations and companies, because of course, nobody is afraid here. Still: Healthy fear is valuable, a smart “advisor”. Fear, regardless of whether it is minor (=worries) or more severe (=deep concerns), prevents us from running carelessly into risks. On the other hand we have the positive reward center, processes are possible here which can even increase our feeling of ecstasy or simply trigger feelings of happiness that flow through our bodies. Here, too, the healthy condition is equivalent to a momentary consideration. Because it’s well known that a permanent state of happiness or ecstasy cannot be physically endured.
But what is actually so fascinating about it?
There is a cognitive, speech region. This is the unit where our decisions are carried out. Many factual-logical thinking people believe that they make logical decisions. Rational logic is the only truth. However, many are unaware that the actual decisions are made in the limbic system. The cognitive-speech region is much more a sort of intelligent advisor. So, the power of our sub-conscious is huge and makes the decisions.
The individual and collective-cultural sub-conscious that, so to speak, resides in your or in the system of the organization, can be immensely important where desired further developments are concerned.
One thing is also clear, and this is the most important thing from our HMC change manager and business coach perspective:
If you want to achieve new goals, i.e. new OpZs, then dealing with worries/major concerns/fears and positive target images of the new OpZ are elementary for your success.
And as part of this it is also clear: Money, i.e. increasing EBIT, is far-removed from being a “sexy goal” for your employees and generally tires almost everybody the moment it is uttered.
So: Why and for what should I leave my OpZ cave?