All change, even change that leads to improved business performance, represents displacement and threat to those affected. This is the key reason most efforts to produce change fail. Cultivating awareness of the emotional experiences associated with change is crucial to making change successfully.
In the training program on Team Creativity that Dr. Richard Kremsdorf and I developed for MIT's Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP), we incorporate Edward DeBono's Six Hat framework into a structured process for analyzing problems and generating creative solutions. The six colored hats symbolize different ways of thinking, or moves that participants can make, in the context of team interaction.
One of the "hats" is the red hat. "Red-hat thinking" or "red-hat moves" have to do with feelings or emotions. At the appropriate point in the process, we ask team members to "put on their red hats" and discuss how they feel about the various proposed solutions to a problem. Invariably, this part of the process is problematic. Team members have trouble differentiating their intellectual reactions from their emotional ones. For example, a team member might say, "I feel that this solution will be the most economical." This is after we have already asked them to state their thoughts about the positive aspects of the solution (the yellow-hat step).
Recently, the cause of this difficulty dawned on me. MIT students (like many of us who earn a living using the part of our bodies above the neck) are selected for their intellectual prowess. They tend to be less skilled (and therefore less comfortable) in accessing their feelings. Asking them how they feel about a proposed solution is too vague. A more specific (and more effective) question is, "what emotional concerns does this solution raise for you or the others who will be affected?"
With the benefit of a more specific prompt, and a little coaching, they are much more likely to become aware of the kinds of feelings that undermine successful efforts to implement change. Eventually, they will grow to be the kinds of team members and leaders who can say, "This solution is likely to scare the individuals whose jobs it may threaten." Or "This solution is likely to embarrass the people who developed our current method." Armed with this awareness, they are much more likely to anticipate the resistance they are likely to encounter and devise effective steps to mitigate it.
The lessons from the MIT UPOP Team Creativity training generalize to many other situations. For example, this sort of questioning can be useful in executive and team coaching.
Originally posted by Paul Edelman on LinkedIn on July 27, 2018.