Why Change in Business is so Hard

Most people find that throwing things out does not come naturally, for four important reasons:

Ego. First, we’ve got our egos to protect. If you made it, it’s got to be good. Even the simple act of writing something down can imprint a psychological connection to that idea, even if you didn’t agree with it before. Marketers have used this technique for decades to get us to by more consumer goods, through the use of ‘write-in’ contests. “In 25 words or less, describe why you like Cheerios.” Even if you’ve never bought the product, data shows that just by writing a positive review, you start to like it. And buy it.

Equity. A second reason we hold on: we’ve got equity in those ideas. Most of us think our time and money is worth something, so we’re often persuaded by our own conviction to keep working on the same version of an idea. We continue to invest because of the investment we’ve already made. For example, even with the ease with which editing can be done with word processing, many writers would admit that the time and effort that one puts into a project easily becomes a substitute for quality or success. We hate to change things in which we’ve become invested because ‘rewriting’ may feel like a waste of invested time. ‘Sunk cost,’ then, becomes the ultimate cause of resistance to change, the belief that change will cost us the equity of what’s already been invested.

Value. A third reason is the inability to know what customers or users would really perceive to be valuable. It’s hard to imagine that someone else could want something other than what we want for ourselves. People who develop new things are essentially doing the learning for an entire set of users or customers, before the users have to experience the product. If you don’t have a way to test the ideas before you market them, it becomes your opinion against that of the market.

An Alternative. Finally, we may not have another version to replace it. We’ve been spending so much time on idea #1, that there hasn’t been time to devote to any alternatives. Without another path to take, we just keep plodding down the one we’re on.