Here’s the thing about change

There are as many nuanced reactions to change as there are people experiencing whatever change you might imagine. So, in this time of profound political upheaval how do people feel about change in general? A brief look at the results of the US election might provide some answers.

That’s what they are not who they are!

A November 9, 2016 Pew Research Center analysis of the then recent US election, analyzed support for the two main presidential candidates based on voter demographics. Sparing you the details, the top line summary is that Clinton voters tended to be younger, white with a large majority among non-whites, more often female with slightly more education. Trump voters were older, more often male, less well-educated, particularly among all white voters.

So, which group more demanded change and more expected meaningful change to come from their candidate of choice?

Research into change, mine included, suggests the older we get the less comfortable we are with change. We fear it more than we did when we were younger because we recognize the increased vulnerabilities that inevitably come with age.

Given a choice we prefer to avoid change, which we associate with risk.

Similarly, the wealthier we are the less we want to experience change that may result in us being less wealthy in the future. If we are not wealthy, certainly if we are outright poor, what do have to lose?

Change, sure, why not? Bring it!

That being true, Hillary voters voted for change while those voting for Donald did not? That is much too broad a generalization, based only on demographics, to suggest how voters feel about change. A sure path to reaching wrong conclusions if there ever was one.

Many political pundits said Trump supporters, those who believed he would “drain the swamp”, wanted change. But what did that really mean to older, often white male voters, who again, based on their demographics, were the very people who would be expected to prefer things not change?

Back to the future with the only question being, how far back?

To answer that you must look at the change many Trump voters had already experienced. Eight years of not only living with a Democrat as president but as well one much younger and black. And what was their 2016 alternative? Another Democrat albeit a white one, approximately their age, a woman, the wife of a previous president many had voted against in past elections.

Yes, they wanted change but not this. The change they wanted was a return to life as they had known it to be. They wanted things to change back to what they believed once was.

And how did Hillary voters view their vote for her vis-à-vis change? Common wisdom/logic suggested they wouldn’t want change or certainly not as much as they feared would come were Trump president. Many felt they already had or soon would achieve the change that best suited them. Now the task was to not lose what they had already gained.

Do you see any similarities between the wishes of both groups? Both were voting for status quo with the only (but extremely) important difference being, concern for which status quo that would be.

The never-ending job!

The message in all this is simple. Do not attempt to understand change in your life or the lives of others by compartmentalizing you or them based on simple demographics. Reaction to change is far too complex for that to work.

If your job requires you understand what motivates your customers, look to what was and what is before you attempt to understand what might be.

Don’t think you understand potential customers because you know their age, race, gender or any other demographic you might name. And above all, when you feel you do understand them, accept the need to continually reevaluate your conclusions.

As with all change, what you understand will have changed sooner than you think.

William Matthies founded Coyote Insight in 2000 to help start-ups as well as established companies and brands plan for profitable growth.

In 1986 he founded what was to become the largest independent market research/database marketing company in the consumer electronics and high tech fields. By the time he sold The Verity Group in 1997, the company employed 400+ people at its California and Costa Rica offices.

Today he serves on corporate advisory boards lecturing frequently at industry events around the world on managing change, strategic planning, and customer relations.

William’s spare time is spent seeking out experiences that change his perspective, while at the same time having great fun. A few years ago, he visited Russia for a Mach 2.5 flight in a MiG 25 supersonic aircraft flying to 80,000 feet, the edge of space. Want details? Contact him, he’ll be happy to tell you about it!