Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.
The status quo is a powerful barrier to progress in many organizations. Indeed, shedding ‘how we do things’ is fundamental to Vijay Govindarajan’s 3 box thinking, where he highlights the importance of divesting ourselves of things that are no longer important so that we can innovate in their stead.
A recent paper sets out to explore quite why we favor what is over what might be. The study revolves around our apparent habit of using inherent traits to describe something rather than its context, and how this lends us to assume what we see is good.
“The way we explain the world around us influences our beliefs about right and wrong,” the authors say “People have a strong tendency to think the status quo is good, so things that are outside the norm are viewed in a negative light.”
How we behave
The study saw participants manipulated by the researchers so that they focused on either inherent traits or external factors. The aim was to explore whether the status quo was being used as a moral guide, and whether this was linked to our tendency to rely on inherent characteristics when we explain things.
The analysis found that those who leaned more towards inherent trait thinking were much more likely to think that the status quo is the best.
This changed when participants were exposed to information about external factors, at which point they looked beyond the status quo and became more flexible in their thinking.
So, if you’re looking to encourage employees to detach themselves from how things are so that they can explore better ways of behaving, it may benefit you to describe the status quo very much in terms of the context by which it came about rather than what it is.
Article source: Study explores how we can shift away from the status quo.