thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Immunity to Change

By on April 20, 2011


"There are assumptions you hold and
assumptions that have a hold on you"
Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey

Assumptions that we hold create certainty for us. We like to believe that there is no different reality. But imagine that you have been driving all of your adult life in the US, where the steering wheel is on the left side of the car. With that paradigm, you automatically go to the right side of the car to get in if you are the passenger. When you travel to England, of course, it is natural to still head to the right side as a passenger even though you know that the steering wheel is on the right. Although it is confusing at first, we are able to adapt to the different way of operating.

In business, assumptions are much more difficult to change. The reason that change causes anxiety is not that we can’t accept that alternatives exist. It is that we have the feeling the change might leave us defenseless. So, we console ourselves with half-truths that our current supplier-centered structure is working fine and that we know what our customers need from us. We have created a system that is immune to change and relieves us from danger. Why risk changing a system that is already functioning well?

If you think this way, your company is not a good candidate to become customer-centric. You will be locked into a world in which the only changes will be “baby steps.” What we do in our client work is to help leaders understand their barriers to changing (other than the “it has always been this way” mindset) and to recognize the payback for the company as a result of greater flexibility and passion for exploring new ideas to benefit customers.

Becoming customer-centered is simple, but it requires significant changes in your corporate approach if you current culture is product-centered. If executive leadership is change-resistant, they are probably not going to make it past a few cosmetic changes.

Customer-centricity will create a new dimension of success that many companies cannot picture because they are being held back by their assumptions. The journey starts with the realization that success will come when a different organizational culture is in place and that it is worth the effort to change.


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