How Cognitive Dissonance Helps and Hurts Your Change Efforts

Change is tough. We know that. Personal change, professional change, and organizational change can each be overwhelming. Especially when change is led by someone who doesn’t understand the five stages of change.

In times like we’re experiencing now in Fall 2020, educational change includes all three areas of change (personal, professional, organizational).

Here’s a quick tip on how to use cognitive dissonance in your favor. And this tip works for you personally as well as those you lead.

Cognitive Dissonance Works Against You. People don’t like to act one way and think another. That’s why change theorists suggest giving time to prepare for change. Time allows thoughts and beliefs to adapt to the change. Otherwise, minds and emotions will work against change.

Cognitive Dissonance Works For You. On the flip side, people will adjust their mind and emotions to match their behaviors, especially if the change in behavior is small.

Incremental change is easier because it allows action to precede belief.

Small Change in Action + Time = Change in Thinking

As thinking changes, cognitive dissonance subsides and the next steps in the change process become cumulatively easier.

PS – If you’re preparing to lead change in your school, I recommend understanding readiness for change and the leadership strategies here.