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What We Can Learn from the Animals About Change

5-minute read

Water begins to fill a large glass-walled cube in the middle of a dimly lit room. For this research experiment, the water represents “change”.

Slowly oozing in from the bottom right of the cube, the water starts to creep up the feet and legs of the adult chimpanzee and it’s offspring, as they tightly hold hands together. The researchers in the room performing this experiment are not seeing any real reaction yet. As the fluid level continues to rise, this subtly begins to change. The adult chimp reaches down to bring their dear offspring closer to their chest to avoid being submerged - a reaction the researchers hypothesized would take place.

The water flow begins to increase and with each spike in the cubic volume, the oxygenated space is quickly being replaced with H2O. The core necessity to breathe is now being threatened. The baby chimp is now perched on the shoulders of the taller, adult chimp. The water (change) continues to advance with much of the enclosure now immersed in water. As the water line reaches neck level of the adult chimp, the adult chimp does something the researchers couldn’t have predicted.

What do you believe happened next?

Tip-toeing to grasp any remaining oxygen in the cube, the adult chimp reaches above their head to grab a hold of their offspring. Then, a sense of alarm ripples through even the most seasoned researchers as the offspring is plunged into the depths of the water and placed just under the feet of the adult chimp, providing a few extra inches of elevation to breath and survive. Frantically, the cube is immediately evacuated of its watery contents and the animals go about the rest of their afternoon, unharmed.

Thinking about the changes in your world, what can be learned from this experiment that can help produce more successful change for your people, or for your business? Our insights reveal that bringing greater focus to the individual level on your change journey is vital to getting folks to successfully move from here, to your desired future state.

“Please put your mask on before assisting others.” For air travellers, this is a familiar orientation as you settle into your seats. It reminds us that to be at our best selves and to be able to serve others, we take care of ourselves first. It may stem from our survival instincts, similar to what happened in the Cube experiment: that at the core of all change, thinking about and responding to individual needs is a massive motivator to influencing self and others.

Whether we’re consciously or unconsciously aware of it, we find that many of us are dialed into WII-FM. Our radio station - What’s In It For Me - wants to play the greatest hits, especially in times of change. Bringing focus to what matters most to change participants increases the success of transitioning your greatest asset, your people, from here to there.

In the comments below, let us know what you believe are the most important factors you consider in a journey of change, especially around creating and inspiring mobility for others.

In our next TREEO Comm|Unity newsletter, we’ll share our top 5 motivators to drive the change you want for yourself, for your people, and for your community.

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