Change management and the adaptive third

Successful professional service firms are those that have great leaders who can help their people anticipate and adapt to change quickly. So an article by Nick Tasler ( explaining why one in three adapt to change more easily caught my eye.

The article refers to work by psychologist Salvatore Maddi at the University of Chicago and telecommunications executive Carl Horn. They challenged some advice indicated that to avoid stress you should avoid change.

Maddi’s own research on creative people revealed that creativity, insight and originality were more likely to come from people who enjoyed stimulating experiences and fluctuating environments (the “openness to experience” characteristic on personality assessments – and

Through a period of intense change management in a commercial organisation they found that a third of people (“the adaptive third”) thrived whilst the majority suffered. The simple difference in behaviour of the adaptive third was that whilst everyone else looked back at what had happened and why, they focused on the future. Maddi described it as “existential courage”.

This linked to work by Silver at the University of California who studied victims of bereavement, abuse and terrorism. She found in studies over many decades that a consistent one out of three trauma victims will not search for a reason to explain why they are experiencing misfortune.

The simple difference of the adaptive third was they whilst they asked themselves what the change meant, rather than trying to make sense of what they had done to deserve the experience, they tried to make sense of what they could do now that it had occurred. The adaptive third asked “What can good people do when bad things happen?” instead of “Why do bad things happen to good people?”.

It felt particularly pertinent advice as the UK faces the Brexit challenge.

Further reading about change management

Some of my blogs on change and change management are here: