Why "Just do it" is often so difficult 

 14 July 2021

Do you still remember my thoughts on "wanting to want"? It was about establishing an attitude and a context for new things - agility, for example. And that it takes time and patience to develop this culture. In the aftermath, the question kept coming up why some people succeed so well with change - and others have such a hard time with it.

To make it concrete, let's imagine three companies. The boss comes out of the conference euphoric and says, "DevOps solves all our problems. Implement it." The teams of the three companies think so too and start. Team A runs off, tries it out, and produces its first results after a week. Team B gets on with it, works its way through, has setbacks again and again. But after six months, DevOps is established here, too. Team C abandons the project after a year of meetings, wrangling over responsibilities and frustration. How could this happen? Of course, there is not THE one cause - and please don't believe anyone who says otherwise. Not even me!

Today I would like to open up another perspective on this - a biological-philosophical one. Which is also a little bit right, like the others.

The brain

Let's open a model of our data processing: A data stream with an unbelievable amount of sensory impressions is constantly flowing towards us - pictures, sounds, smells etc.. Our conscious mind does not have the capacity to process all that (try to decode a 4k movie on a 386 - it won't work).
Good that we have a filter in front of it, which works unconsciously. It looks at every bit and byte incredibly fast:

  • Is that something new or something familiar?
  • Is it important or unimportant?
    Much is then discarded or automatically processed. But if the unconscious comes to the conclusion: It's new, it's important, but I can't do anything with it and we have to deal with it, then the task is handed over to the conscious mind. you take care of it. Probing takes about 300ms, so it's pretty quick.
    The unconscious is subjective and very smart - it's always learning along. Always. Without interruption. In the sandbox, on the school desk, at the first kiss, the first breakup, at work, at home and on vacation - every experience flows into the system and determines the next filter rounds.

The almost free will

Indeed, we can decide in the conscious quite freely and big what we do and how we behave. But only within the framework that the unconscious allows through filtering and perception. It tinkers with our very own individual reality throughout our lives - and in this reality we can move freely and consciously control our actions.
Arthur Schopenhauer coined the apt phrase:

"Man can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants."

Arthur Schopenhauer

And if we "want" to work on our will, then that goes through the unconscious - and that means making experiences, making experiences, making experiences.
If I have now learned unconsciously all my life that change is super great, it is easy for me to put it into practice. If I see stability as success, it's all the more difficult.

Group formation

And our three teams? Well, like and like like each other - even unconsciously. We team up with those who tick like us (this also proved successful in the saber-tooth era). Perhaps the vision unites us - or the secure job. Curiosity about technology or people. The system finds itself.
In a traditional company, where the same thing has been done for decades, an "From now on DevOps" will not bring forth frenetic choruses. Even if you want to do it together. Companies that have always emphasized self-organization also attract self-organized people. The framework for deciding to do is similar, and DevOps or agile is implemented more quickly.
So change is not done with just wanting to do. We are where we are today, as the sum of our past experiences. Each of us individually and together as a team or company.