The Disequilibrium of Change

A 2011 book by Winifred Gallagher, New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change, elegantly points out the harsh duality of how humans relate to change. On the one hand, we have a built-in affinity for seeking the new, something that has probably saved our species from extinction numerous times. Gallagher calls this affinity neophilia, and suggests that it ideally becomes balanced with our concurrent need for security and avoidance of unnecessarily steep risk.

A wild card comes into play when the pace of change exceeds our capacity to make sense of what is happening–something that Gallagher suggests is happening now. It is the disequilibrium between neophilia and our need for security that triggers resistance. The art of leading change is being able to help others manage what is fast becoming a chronic state of imbalance.

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