Denial Only Has One Result

by Jay Deragon on 05/07/2013

Denial 4 We tend to deny the things about ourselves that we don’t like. Some of those things are obvious to others while others are hidden below the surface and we cover them up like an addict covers up their addiction.

It is hard to change and sometimes change doesn’t happen until it is forced upon us. Our health can slip away for years then it becomes a choice of change or die. Our marriage can slip away and then it becomes a choice of change or lose it. Our children can slip away and then it can be too late to convince them that we’ve changed.  Denying the need for change only ends in one result…..something changes for the better or worse.

Avoiding the Worse Results

Change can have a positive result if we take the time to understand what value can be created from the change and learn what is required to make the change. Instead many of us, both personally as well as organizationally, fake change and end up getting worse results. The reason is we denied the need to truly change and while verbalizing the need for change our behavior remained the same.

Grant McCracken writes in HBRThere’s a convenient forgetting going on out there. Our lives are now filled with a stream of disruption, things that are new and strange. Whatever our first reaction, we now like to pretend we were early adopters and enthusiasts. Call it “disruption denial.”

The fact of the matter is our professional lives now churn with change. Markets change. Technology changes. Consumers change. Channels change. Competitors change. This is an era of disruption. Not disruption as the occasional event, but disruption as the constant, chronic condition of our professional lives. You would hope that we were getting better at understanding and managing change. And sometimes we are. Too often however, our response is to ignore and forget change, to fake our way through it, to pretend an engagement and a mastery we do not have. And that’s bad. That means we are not getting better at change, but steadily worse. We are denying disruption, instead of adapting to it.

Today’s market dynamics are fueled by a connected world engaged, informed and creating rapid cycles of change that wait for no one to catch up. You cannot deny the power of the human spirit, the creativity of human capital and force of the human network.

Adapt to these forces and grow with it. Deny these forces and you will lose the value created by it.


{ 1 comment }

Christopher S. Rollyson May 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm

@Jay, You’re a master of the short, philosophical post, and my experience, in “personal” and “professional” lives corroborates your thesis here, which I understand this: when circumstances or environment change significantly, people (and organizations) need to adapt. This is a natural law for all living things. People can only choose whether to adapt actively or passively. I call it, “Do you want to help set the table where you’re going to eat, to consume the remnants of leaders?”

Here’s another thought. I spend a lot of time reading sociology and anthropology writing because it gives me insight into humans as animals, living beings, while bypassing distracting things like intellect. Here’s why. Environmental change is a survival issue, so the motivators are at the animal level. For virtually all of human history, the environment changed slowly, so the most adaptive behavior was to “learn the ropes” (aka “the formula,” “the game plan,” the “cultural toolbox,” the “success formula…” When things changed slowly, understanding the environment through the eyes of other people, institutions and cultures was adaptive. Ooops. That’s maladaptive now, but the human animal will struggle to accept it because it contradicts our experience at a gut level. This is what my forthcoming book, The Social Channel [] is all about, helping to empower people and orgs.

In the short to medium term, this reality will bifurcate all groups into “active change” people/orgs and “passive change.” In some cases it will produce crisis for certain people/orgs, but overall, because most people will not challenge their instinct of which they are unaware, most people/orgs will lose some autonomy because they will create less value, have less distinction, because every area of economy and culture that adapts passively will be a bloody ocean. But most will choose that boat and it will be mostly okay; they’ll be marginally less autonomous and “happy.”

On the flipside, as you suggest, everyone has the choice to adopt actively, whether s/he realizes it or not. A good way to stay plugged in is to read your blog!

Thanks- Chris

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: