Change is Good … You Go First.
That’s a great line — worthy of a great philosopher* (e.g., Dilbert or Garfield or Calvin & Hobbes). And it speaks to a fundamental of human nature. While we objectively may understand that a proposed change will be beneficial, we intuitively resist change. Whether it’s because it takes a lot of effort to overcome inertia or because we are inherently conservative, we resist change.
In my last post, Generation Y versus Big Law, I talked about some of the changes that we are told new Gen Y employees will force on their employers. There was even an example of an employer that seemed to be eagerly accommodating the changes required by Gen Y. However, on further reflection, I wondered whether this employer was a harbinger of things to come or simply atypical.
In the context of law firm knowledge management, I discussed the knowledge managers’ hope that Gen Y lawyers would prevail in their demands for state of the art technology at work since that was what they were used to in the rest of their lives. As a cautionary note, I pointed to the success (or lack thereof) in implementing meaningful work-life balance policies in law firms. While I acknowledge that this was a little like comparing apples and oranges, since the issues that motivate technology adoption are not entirely identical with those that motivate the adoption of health and welfare policies within a firm, I do believe it is a cautionary tale. Both work-life balance and web 2.0 technologies represent radical departures from the current way of doing things. They require change — and humans resist change. Law firms tend to be even more conservative than individuals. The question they usually ask when confronted with change is, “what are our peer firms doing?” How quickly do you think those firms will embrace Gen Y change? Ask the human beings that work there.
* If you do happen to know the source of the line “Change is Good…You Go First,” please do let me know. It’s too good a line to be consigned to oblivion.