Stephen Hawking said that intelligence is the ability to adapt to change, and when I first read this I was struck by how this appeared to contradict Darwin’s theory that adapting to change was a survival strategy on a species level.

Is Darwin Correct?

Yet, if we’ve learned anything in this last year, it’s how to adapt. On the face of it, it could be argued that what we’ve experienced supports Darwin – as a species we adapted our behaviour to survive a threat.

The Argument for Hawking:

On an individual level, intelligence (both in terms of intellect and information) has been the thing that allowed us to adapt and adjust to the changes of the last year.

I think it’s important to address the information ‘intelligence’ here, as it’s been clear that those who rejected the expert opinions or who were strongly influenced by the significant quantity of misinformation, did not adapt well at all. It’s not just the flouting of rules, but the active protests against necessary measures that is striking.

On the intellectual side, I don’t regard intelligence as being a measure of how ‘brainy’ an individual is, rather it’s the ability to recognise a problem, find and consider quality information about it, and arrive at a considered decision. Those who accepted the reality of the threat, and understood the necessity of the restrictions, adapted better to lockdown.

All Things Aren’t Equal:

I’ve really oversimplified here, as all of us experienced difficulties and doubts at some stage over the last year. However, I do believe that in order to affect real change it is essential to convince people that the change is both necessary and beneficial.

Where Learning Comes In:

In obtaining buy-in for change, good communication is the key. Arguments should be presented logically and concisely, while still making an emotional appeal. The truth is that we tend to be fond of our routines and dislike changes that disrupt it. We have to be convinced to change, and need to understand why change is necessary and how we will benefit.

For organisations, change management is both an art and a science. At its heart is the acknowledgement that only through acceptance can change succeed.

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