According to The Times yesterday, over 85% of current accounts still sit with the big-5 banks – less than 15% of us have been sufficiently attracted by the alternatives to have made a change.  A rational person would assume that the big-banks must be providing a better service than the alternatives.  But apparently not – none of these brands appear in the top-10 by customer satisfaction.  This got me to wondering – why the stasis, what stops people changing and what parallels are there to change within organisations?  Why it is that apparently rational human beings can show such inertia and lethargy – even when the alternatives are preferable to the status quo?

Obviously there can be a whole smorgasbord of reasons to justify not changing – it’s too difficult, the alternatives aren’t compelling enough, the cost is too great (whether financial or emotional) and so on; but even when these factors aren’t present human beings can still show huge reticence about change (how many of us actually shop around for our insurance each year?).  The lesson for me – never under-estimate the lure of the status quo.  It is known, it feels safe, it needs no great effort to stay the same.

I wonder if the alternatives to the big-5 banks are spending enough time thinking about what will entice people to change – making it more inspiring, easier, cheaper and less painful?  And I wonder if leaders in organisations spend enough time doing this – making their changes more inspiring, easier, cheaper and less painful?  This is certainly what I try to do when working with senior leaders who want to change themselves, their teams or their organisations – and it is certainly not new insight for change practitioners, but it’s maybe a useful reminder that human beings, and change, tend not to be as rational as we might expect.

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