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Optical Illusions Help with Change Management

“Optical illusions such as magic lanterns taught the Victorians what to trust. What can they teach us today?” asks history professor Iwan Rhys Morus.

It all has to do with paradigms, he says, sets of things of things that everyone (or at least every scientist) agrees on at any given time. When we change paradigms, our whole world view changes. When Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, he turned to the well-known duck-rabbit illusion. Look at the picture one way and you see a rabbit. Look another way and you see a duck. Once you convince yourself that what you saw was a duck, a duck is all you can see; making yourself see that rabbit again could be very difficult.

In fact, helping people “see the rabbit” is one of the most important reasons for holding corporate meetings. Meetings are vital for change management and communication, according to businessballs.com. “Properly run meetings save time, increase motivation, productivity, and solve problems. Meetings create new ideas and initiatives. Meetings achieve buy-in. Meetings prevent ‘not invented here’ syndrome. Meetings diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot.”

Research by Dr. Albert Mehrabian yields even more proof that face-to-face meetings (as opposed to telephone conferences or podcasts) are the most effective way to effect change and gain consensus:

  •  The written word only carries 7% of the true meaning and feeling.
  • Only 38% of the meaning and feeling is carried in the way that things are said.
  • The other 55% of the meaning and feeling is carried in facial expression and non-verbal signals.“Hold meetings,” businessballs.com concludes, “even if it’s difficult to justify the time. Plan, run and follow up meetings properly, and they will repay the cost many times over because there is still no substitute for physical face-to-face meetings. Hold meetings to manage teams and situations, and achieve your objectives quicker, easier, at less cost.”When the primary purpose of a corporate event is to manage change, incorporating illusion into the program makes for a natural fit.  Not only is illusion effective in the form of entertainment at corporate events, explains Katalina Absolon, it is particularly powerful when incorporated into team building exercises.

    Why is illusion so appropriate as a “leitmotif” at a corporate event? It’s simple. Remember the part in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz when Dorothy unmasks the wizard? That play goes back to the year 1900, Katalina’s team building co-leader Christian Painter explains, and it dramatizes the power of having audiences realize that what they thought they knew is an illusion. (Without that realization that the wizard was a fake, there would be nothing readers would learn from the story!)

    Often, when a major change is underway in an organization, that’s when Christian and Katalina are called upon to use teambuilding to help employees adapt to those changes. It’s very difficult, however, for people to let go of old ways of behaving and old ways of relating to others. For challenging people’s perceptions, demonstrating that there are other ways to “see” matters and to arrive at collaborative decisions under changed conditions, there’s nothing better than illusion-busting.

    Is it any wonder that more and more, organizations are using the power of optical illusions to help with change management?

– by Rebecca of the Corporate Events Indianapolis blog team

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