Psychology of adapting to changeWhen the platform changes, many of us go through a process of thinking “nooooo, why do they keep changing stuff!” etc.

We tend to like status quo, whilst knowing change is inevitable.

But what happens when this changes ‘happens to us’? How do we shift our internal models of what was was, to was it now? Well, I have had the good fortune of watching what happens for me so thought I would share it.




My experience of Google+ could be summarised as a constant learning curve. Some changes leading to a totally new versions how I ‘see’ Google+ in my head, whilst others tend to be subtle adjustments of the processs at play e.g. how a +1 can lead to people seeing posts in their streams (where it was more passive earlier).

During the early part of the summer many of us know how Google+ was transformed – now with ‘cards’ that ‘flip’ and pages that are far more dynamic. Let’s face it, it is very pretty and functional too.

But do you remember how it looked beforehand? I am getting the answer is ‘no’, and even if you can recall it will be hard work to patch it back together. And what about the process of change…do you think about it as a cyclical process?

Freeze, unfreeze and refreeze

I was recently discussing this with the very forward thinking social fellow Paul Simbeck-Hampson as a way of preparing people for a change occurring within an organisation. There are several models of change out there but one way to think about is loosely applying Lewin’s 3-stage model. 

It is frozen and you know ‘where things are’
It unfreezes and many things that were in place are not lost, but there is learning occuring
It refreezes whereby integration has occurred and the change process/cycle is completed

Below I have taken this model and applied it to my own experience of internal changes to thoughts as they are ‘forgotten’ and ‘rebuilt.

Stage 1 – Frozen.

Applying this to how we create the internal model of the platform.
In essence, through experience and learning, we have thoughts we have ‘in our head’ – largely visual, with some auditory overlay i.e. the neurology is laid down.

These thoughts, when we recall them, create an internal map that represents the platform.
Depending upon the person, there is a mapping between the thoughts and the actual platform, with varying degrees of accuracy in the recall.
These thoughts can then be altered (meaning in this context ‘come and go’), one by one, or chained, whereby a person moves from ‘screen to screen’, or step-by-step as they mentally ‘click a button’, mouseover, drop in a file to a post etc.
This gives us the ability to ‘know the place’ and be able to navigate it in our minds.

Stage 2 – Unfreeze (during the change)

We will often find ourselves in a state of confusion when things ‘change’.
But how does this happen?
Well, it is likely the thoughts relating to ‘knowing the platform’ become ‘weaker’, often with a physical association of ‘discomfort’ or uncertainty.
The images are no longer as clear, as bright, lacking depth etc.
One is no longer able to accurately ‘map’ where the buttons will lead when you click them, a mouseover no longer does the same thing, you get ‘lost’

Stage 3 – Re-freeze

Once, through practice, the new task has been learned (as effectively every click, mouseover, drop of a file etc is a task) you return to a state of ‘knowing’ once more. But not until you have grasped this new territory and mapped it accordingly. When this happens…

The thoughts return more consistent density in terms of clarity of the content
You can, for example, perceive detils better than in the previous stage – you think of a screen on Google Plus, e.g. the box for making ‘posts’ and the icons are clear to you
The ‘content’ (e.g. where the icons are on the Page) is now the ‘new way’ and the stability of the object i.e. the thought is now formed
You are able to move through sequences of tasks far easier and you ‘know where you are’ i.e. the actions are coming from a more clear internal model – the patterns are now laid down.


Knowing this to be one way to describe the natural cycle of change, it makes it easier to relax during the unfreeze process, where many people feel all at sea. It is during this stage of the process that community support really helps, as well as access to reassuring and straightforward materials that enable any changes to be understood in the easiest possible manner. With numerous educators in the Plus – alongside Google themselves – they reduce too much discomfort and provide clear explanations of ‘what is going on’ and what it means.
Changes will not stop happening, and if anything it is going to speed up considerably. We all know this, but often we want ‘frozen’ to stay forever as it is comfortable. Instead it may well be easiest to flow down stream when system changes come, getting to a point where the flow itself is enjoyable as it enables new learning and increased integration, understanding and connection to who and what matters to us most. It is one heck of a ride!