The crisis is opening the door for change…let’s turn to science to help us figure out a more productive future.

The principles of inertia explain how hard it is for us to start something new and stop something we’ve already started, and why we have a tendency to continue with unproductive habits and thinking patterns.

We stay in jobs we don’t like, we keep eating unhealthy food, we fail to have that tricky conversation with a colleague and we make decisions in the same old way. Once those connections have been laid like a badger’s path in a grass field, it is hard to change direction.

A question I’ve asked many times is “What’s the reason you do it this way?” and more often than not the answer is, “It’s the way we have always done it.”

We need an outside force to break us out of inertia and as we are all fully aware it is a weighty outside force which is hitting us right now. 

The resistance or friction to change has been reduced. And so in theory, right now, compared to life before the coronavirus crisis, it should be easier to make changes, people should be more open to change. Innovation should accelerate.

But what type of innovation? None of us can predict the future. Speed may be important right now but running around the hamster wheel as fast as possible is probably not going to be helpful in the long-run. We need velocity or direction over speed. We need to consider velocity so that we can challenge ourselves to think about what we need to do to achieve our goals. 

This is the time to experiment not to replicateAre you trying to fit old patterns of behaviour into the new environment e.g. continue to have the same number of meetings as you did before and try and replicate what you did in the office?  

Or are you taking a step back and challenging yourself to make those probably long overdue changes e.g. stop being available 24/7 and turning all notifications off so you can do focused work without distraction.

Brainstorm a bunch of experiments, trim it down to a handful and kick start them. You don’t have to take big risks. Measure what you are doing and make sure you get good quality feedback quickly. If the experiment fails, fail quickly, learn from it and iterate. Experiments can help reduce uncertainty which is something we could all do with in this current climate. 

You may fear a dip in performance but as a study undertaken by Professor Mihaela Stan of University College London and Freek Vermeulen at the London Business School showed there is a strong correlation between experimentation and excellent performance

For some this crisis is horrific as they may have experienced loved ones die from afar but the crisis also brings hope and opportunity. This crisis like any major event in your life such as illness, brings energy to the game of change. This precious energy has opened the door of change.

Don’t we owe it to ourselves and to those who have suffered to walk or jog through that door and make those changes with intention and experimentation at the core?