Lessons in organisational change from TED Talks
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Lessons in Organisational Change from TED Talks

   Minute Read     Internal Comms Employee Retention

Lessons in Organisational Change from TED Talks
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    Who doesn’t love a TED talk? My personal favourites are How great leaders inspire action, My philosophy for a happy life and The puzzle of motivation. Businesses, leaders and those responsible for communicating organisational change to employees ,  - HR,  internal communications, executives and management - can learn a lot about change from TED talks. 

    Whilst tech like Oak’s can help tackle change resistance through enhancing communication, segmenting audience communications and measuring the effectiveness of change programmes - change management is an art, and not one that many can get right, so learning how to approach change in organisations, and why people think the way they do, is the best way to tackle change. 

    We’ve sourced some of the best TED Talks, all bringing a unique perspective to change management and gathered the best bits of information that relate to organisational change right here for you… 

    5 Ways to lead in an era of constant change

    It’s hard to overcome change but Jim Hemerling identifies 5 ways to make change empowering and energising, rather than exhausting. Here are five ways to lead in an era of change, by putting your people first: 

    • Inspire people through purpose: Whilst leaders might be driven  by financials and operational goals, your people aren’t going to be equally motivated.  Your people are going to be most motivated by a sense of purpose, so make sure you convey that to them.  
    • Go all in: When thinking about change you need to not only think of the specific actions for change, you need to go all in. Think about everything in relation to that and prepare for it. For example, if you’re changing your onboarding process to improve retention and ensure new hires are better aligned with your company values, you shouldn’t just think you should think about onboarding. Think about their employee experience and how you can improve your culture, how people collaborate, training and development. Go all in. 
    • Provide people with what they need: Giving your people the resources they need during a transformation is an effective way to secure success. This could be learning and development to enhance skills, providing tools so people can work more efficiently, developing new processes to encourage new ways of thinking. Make time to invest and provide for your people.  
    • Instil a culture of continuous learning: Jim Hemerling speaks about how Microsoft went on a transformation journey. When Sayta Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft in 2014 he changed the culture from one of silos and competition to growth, listening and bringing out the best in people. It was all about positivity and encouraging employees to learn. 
    • Be inclusive: This one is specifically for leaders. When you have a vision, a roadmap with milestones and need to hold people accountable for results you need to be directive. But to do this, being inclusive is key. Put your people first.  

    Creating Sustainable Organisational Culture Change in 80 Days

    We’ve all been told that people don’t like change. But Arthur Carmazzi flips the switch on this. If someone came up to us with a cheque for £1,000,000 and told us it would change our life, we wouldn’t reject the offer… would we?

    The reality is that we resist ideas that we don’t believe in. Arthur tells us about the stages of organisational change, and you need to know where you are in order to achieve anything. What are the five stages as told by Arthur? 

    • Blame Culture: “It’s not my fault, if I had the right information, I’d be fine, so it’s not my fault”. This type of culture is lacking in trust and innovation because of fear. People wait until they’re told what to do and progress can be really stunted. 
    • Multi-Directional Culture: People in this culture stick to their departments and collaboration is limited, no one focuses on co-operation and this can lead to frustration. People are not aligned to the company’s purpose. 
    • Live Let Live Culture: Things are good in this culture, but because it’s good - people don’t strive to be better and tend to be complacent. These organisations stay mediocre, and don’t tend to strive for anything bigger. 
    • Brand Congruent Culture: People in these organisations believe in what they’re doing, they always want to improve the product or service they work for. They’re invested in their purpose.  
    • Leadership Enriched Culture: This is the highest level of workplace culture that an organisation can have. Leadership enriched cultures are egoless, leaders develop other leaders, workplace barriers are absent and people are focusing on the sole objective of the business. 

    So how can you get out of the blame culture stage, the live let live culture? Identifying where you are is the first step.

    The second step? Engaging each and every employee in your organisation. Studies show that people’s ideal working environment was being given trust and freedom, being part of collaborative teams, having clarity and structure on achieving goals and having fun whilst doing it.

    Focus on making internal communication and collaboration a top priority. That’s how you engage your employees and develop a more positive culture. 

    How to deal with Resistance to Change 

    How can we make it easy for people to come on board to organisational changes, even the most stubborn of employees? 

    Heather Stagl has an MBA in leadership and change management from DePaul University and is a blogger and radio host of the “Influence Change at Work” show on BlogTalkRadio .

    In this TED talk, Heather speaks about the different types of change characters and how each resists change. When you’re trying to influence change and you’re met with resistance, your responses are critical in influencing change. 

    In the context of change, people resist change and we tell ourselves that they’re resistant to change, they’re stubborn, they’re different. But reverse the roles. If you pushed back against change, it would be because of a valid reason right? 

    Heather Stagl teaches us that we need to focus on the underlying causes of people’s resistance. When we understand the experience of change from other people’s point of view, then we can truly help people through change.

    So if you’re trying to influence people to change, start by treating resistance not as something to overcome, but something to uncover. 

    The inner side of Organisational Change 

    Thijs Homan is a critical scientist and his basic principle is the more you try to manage change, the more it comes to a halt. He believes that change cannot be managed. Thijs Homan’s TED Talk brings a really fresh perspective on organisational change. This perspective believes that no one can officially manage change because change does not occur because of singular entities like change management programmes, or because of managers and leaders. Change is not monocentric. 

    In fact, change is polycentric. It is determined by multiple people. People in organisations are always improvising and reacting to what is going on around them. One person cannot fully know everything that is going on in an organisation and therefore cannot control change.   

    The real development of organisations is not the result of change projects, but the result of change projects and other things happening at the same time. Change is a power dynamic, not an ordering or planned dynamic. 

    Thijs also talks about off-stage behaviour. The continuous process of sense making, which is where individuals talk about what is going on in the organisation, which has to do with the group that people belong to and he says that those groups create clouds of meaning which are the strongest influences of behaviour in organisations.

    Try and consider these ‘clouds’ in relation to organisational change: 

    What about the clouds of meaning about your change project? What about the power relations between clouds? How large is the cloud in relation to other clouds? 

    How your brain responds to stories and why they’re crucial for leaders 

    Picture yourself in a meeting, you’re processing information and listening to everything everyone is saying. Two small parts of your brain are activated in meetings… but you usually forget 50% of what you’re listening to right after you hear it. 

    But when you listen to a story, your entire brain lights up and your senses and emotions become engaged. When you listen to stories, your brain experiences neural coupling which means your brain experiences the story as if it’s actually happening. When you listen to stories, you automatically gain empathy for the storyteller and the more empathy you experience the more oxytocin you release in your brain. 

    This is why storytelling is crucial for leaders because it allows people to trust and understand you more, understand your reasoning and data more and helps people to see things that they might not be able to otherwise see. 

    How great leaders inspire action 

    And finally, one of my favourite TED talks is from Simon Sinek. The speech he talks about the golden circle. Why? How? What? The key to why some people are great at inspiring others, and why others aren’t. Very few people are clear about why they do what they do. But it’s the key to getting people on board with your ideas and inspiring action. 

    Interested in learning more about change? Download your copy of our change report which is full of advice from industry experts and thought leaders on tackling change. 


    Vic is one of Oaks Content Marketing Specialists. She specialises in communication and marketing and is also a host on the Comms In A Nutshell podcast for Internal Comms & HR professionals.