The Science of Successful Organizational Change


To make change work, you need to base it on science, not intuition or myth. In this book, Paul Gibbons offers the first blueprint for change that integrates recent advances in neuroscience, mindfulness, behavioral economics, sociology, complexity theory, and analytics.

THINK Review

Why does organizational change fail?

  • We leave it to specialists, rather than build leaders at every level.
  • We educate leaders so that change is an exception, not most of what they have to do.
  • We ground change leadership in wrong ideas about how people grow, learn and change.
  • We emphasize change tactics at the expense of change strategy and agility.
  • We ignore ideas from outside mainstream psychology – behavioral economics, mindfulness, choice architecture, risk psychology and complexity/probability theory.

Yes! All of the above apply.

Increased connectivity and faster information flows have created a volatile and uncertain world. Too many businesses live under the outdated premise that they are frozen or static, punctuated by episodic change. This is a harmful myth with unintended consequences for business education and executive development. It’s true: Change fails more often than it succeeds. However, change-agile organizations appear to succeed 80 percent of the time. The question is, what do such businesses get right?

  • Change Strategy
    • Much of what is written about change is tactical, but that’s misleading because change tactics can rarely fix a broken strategy.
  • Change Agility
    • In change-agile businesses, major change leaves the business better able to execute rather than change fatigued. They are in a constant state of change readiness.
  • Change Leadership
    • The new role for change leaders is creating a change-agile organization, even more than leadership itself.

The Science of Successful Organizational Change identifies dozens of myths, bad models, and shaky metaphors, replacing some with 21st century research and revealing gaps where research needs to be done. Paul Gibbons links the origins of theories about change to the history of ideas, and suggests that the human sciences will provide real breakthroughs in our understanding of people in the modern day. For example, change fundamentally entails risk. Yet, little is written for businesspeople about how the psychology of risk can help change leaders. Change fundamentally involves changing people’s minds, yet the most recent research shows that providing facts may strengthen resistance.

Gibbons notes that several Fortune 500 firms have made change part of their mission statement, and use these mission statements to motivate employees to knock down barriers and succeed. He also says more science and analytics are needed to ensure accountability for leaders too. He believes that HR should work with senior management to identify the general traits that a person needs to succeed in the specific position that he or she is interviewing for, and that these factors will differ by company. This is a novel approach to identifying how meshing a person’s skills with an enterprise can help both succeed.

Gibbons’ explorations of the frontiers of 21st century behavioral science will help you build influence, improve communication, optimize decision making and sustain change.


Buy the book at Amazon.com

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