Using Nostalgia to Deal with Change Management

Using Nostalgia to Deal with Change Management

Using Nostalgia to Deal with Change Management. Image courtesy of #WOCinTech Chat

Image courtesy of #WOCinTech Chat

What role do our memories and nostalgia play in organizational change management?


Today is the day that Nintendo releases their new gaming console the Switch. It is also the release of the newest installment in their incredibly popular Zelda series. Fans haven’t seen a new Zelda game for a main console in a little over ten years – something I’m aware of because the last game came out right before my daughter was born who is now ten. That game also was launched with a new and wildly different console – the Nintendo Wii, which revolutionized how we play games and interact with content. The Nintendo Switch aims to do the same. It got me thinking about organizational change management and using nostalgia to sell innovation.

It is interesting that Nintendo has used one of the most popular and enduring franchises to launch both revolutionary and innovative products – it speaks to their genius in merging marketing with change management principles. As any CEO or manager knows, selling new ideas and concepts can difficult and the public (or a team) is sometimes slow to get on board. Although advertisers and politicians have been using nostalgia and emotion to sell and manage change for years, inserting nostalgia for training and organizational change management is just starting to catch fire. In a great article in the New York Times called “What is Nostalgia Good For?”, John Tierney explores the role that our memories and our longing for connection to our past helps us learn new skills or adapt to difficult or new environments. Research shows that young adults and people over 60 tend to be the most nostalgia, while those in middle age are more invested in their present. Think of a college freshman feeling homesick while also feeling in love with their new adventure, or the joy and vigor observed when an aging grandparent recants adventures from their youth. Both age groups experience huge waves of change – change management crises you might say- and intuitively recall memories and warm feelings to help feel grounded amid the chaos. They are using nostalgia as a change management tool.

While the new Nintendo Switch is not anticipated to be a huge seller, the new Zelda game is being heralded as the best video game on the market. The Nintendo Switch is radically different from the Wii and the rest of consoles on the market and a little complicated to sell in a sentence (I’m not even sure how it works) – another change management crisis. The Zelda game on the other hand incorporates elements from the original Zelda game and storyline from 1987 and connects parents to the joy of their youth while they introduce the game to their kids. An incredibly powerful change management tool if ever there was one. So how can you incorporate this idea into your change management strategies. How can nostalgia help you sell new and different ideas to your employees or your market? Here are a few simple suggestions that you have probably already used without even realizing they were hitting on nostalgia nerves.

  1. Framing new concepts or strategies under existing company values or vision statements.
  2. Beginning quarterly meetings with emotional and inspiring stories of recent wins.
  3. Highlighting the successes of past products or innovations and then positioning new roll-outs as the inevitable evolution of that success.
  4. Using universal nostalgic themes in advertising; connecting concepts to love of country or memories with friends and family.
  5. Re-packaging products in old imagery, re-launching your classics during growth plateaus.

There are so many ways to incorporate nostalgia into change management strategies whether they are for internal training, product marketing, or general organizational management. Looking forward can only ever happen if we are gladly grounded in our past. How have you used memory, emotion or nostalgia to handle a change management crisis? What worked? And what hit the wrong note?

e-Capability: Get Certified with Our New Online Courses

e-Capability: Get Certified with Our New Online Courses

Online Training Certifications Have Arrived!
E-Capability Online Training Certification

Big news today! We have partnered with Gemini SWIFT Learning to launch E-Capability, our new eLibrary. Over many years, we have developed an extensive library of training programs in leadership development, change and innovation, customer service, employee training, and culture development. Now we are capitalizing on that content using the SWIFT Platform to create a series of online certification programs, which will begin to become available in 2017.

The first program we are launching is the Customer Service Certification, and will be comprised of the following seven courses:

Customer Service Certification

Module 1: Winning with Service
  • Service is key to business success and it also has huge personal reward. Learn why and how delivering exceptional service pays off big time for both you and your organization.
Module 2: Getting Close to Your Customer
  • The secret to service success is understanding your customer and their expectations. The secret to your success is delivering the experience that will wow them every time. Learn to think like your customer and deliver on the experience they expect.
Module 3: Delivering on the Promise
  • You are the value add that your company counts on the keep customers happy. Delivering exceptional service requires special skills and attitudes. Learn and hone them in this module.
Module 4: Customer Focused Solutions
  • Customer requests don’t always fall into neat and tidy delivery options. Sometimes mistakes happen and it’s up to you to solve the client’s problem. Learn how to respond constructively to customer difficulties and demands.
Module 5: Dealing with Difficult Customers
  • There are some service situations that fall outside of what is reasonable. You need to know how to handle these nevertheless. Learn how to turn around the most challenging customer behaviour and de-escalate particularly difficult conflict situations.
Module 6: Service Teamwork
  • Delivering consistent high quality services takes a team. Who has your back and how do you support other service team members are the important questions answered in this module.
Module 7: Taking Care of You
  • Customer service positions require energy and focus. They are often stressful and demanding. It is easy to empty your pitcher of giving. Learn how to deal with service stress and maintain your personal resilience during and after work.

Courses will be available early 2017.

Image courtesy of #WOCinTech Chat

New Year Resolutions, Leadership Development, and Change Management Together at Last.


For whatever reason I really hate making New Year resolutions. Maybe it is the dead cold of January that doesn’t exactly feel motivating, or maybe it is sluggishness that always results from a two month Thanksgiving-Christmas food binge, but every January I feel a mix of guilt and anger at the constant resolution-talk. No, I don’t like resolutions, and if I’m really honest I know why. It is because I don’t have any faith that I will be successful. I know myself too well, I have many years of goal-setting flops to draw on and most importantly I don’t like being detailed or consistent with anything, and development goals definitely require consistency. I am not a detailed person and I don’t like doing anything consistently. But I can’t deny that there are things that I would like to learn, to improve on, and some healthy habits I would love to make a consistent part of my life— most notably I want to be more active and to eat less processed food. As part of the Capability Connections team I think and write and teach a lot about goals–usually in the area of change management and leadership development. I know that in organizations leadership development and  and change management initiatives create engagement, improve teams, and lead to overall increased profitability. Here at the Connect Blog we like to talk about leadership development and change management a lot. We have discussed how millennials need different incentives than their older counterparts.   We have also discussed the role passion can play in motivating us to move forward. I agree with all of these when in my work mindset. I even understand theoretically that the same tools I use and draw on in a professional role can help me achieve resolutions in my personal life. But that’s just it, its just theory, and New Year resolutions take practice and practical application, something I’m not used to doing all by myself. But maybe that’s OK! Now there is something for me, the theoretical goal-setter, that might even turn me into a New Year resolution convert.

Neil Levy of Independent magazine wrote a piece with tips on how to be more successful with New Year resolutions. All of his tips are excellent, but I’m especially excited about the concept of using Construal Level Theory in goal setting scenarios. The basic idea of the development scheme is that the details of a goal are less important than the abstracted pattern of behaviour you desire. Levy writes, “construing things in more abstract terms tends to facilitate more rational thought and behaviour, possibly because it makes more salient the reasons why we want to exercise self-control in the first place.” I’m great at thinking abstractly, and I love patterns. And so maybe instead of using implementation intentions (or consistent detailed daily cues) to remind myself to exercise or eat right, I can think of these goals at a high level. Instead of making a goal to wake up and exercise at a certain time each morning, I can try to view all activity in my day as a way to increase my overall fitness. And instead of dealing with each processed junk food item I encounter as a unique ball of concrete delicious details, I can remind myself of the overall pattern of nutrition I want to follow. I’ll give it a go and let you know how it works out.

By applying Construal Level Theory to my personal New Year resolutions I realize that this concept can also really help teams achieve leadership development and change management goals. Ryan and Robert Quinn write in the Harvard Business Review that leadership development and change management should be addressed together and not as separate initiatives. His point being that if managers can effectively deal with change management issues, they are already engaging in leadership development since a key part of leadership is enabling change. He writes “[c]ultural changes cannot happen without leadership, and efforts to change culture are the crucible in which leadership is developed.” As team leaders focus on high level change management initiatives, according to construal level theory, they aren’t focusing on the details of what it means to be a leader, but they are developing the behaviour patterns and high level skills needed to be successful down the road. How would change management and leadership development be affected by construal level theory at your organization?

What Can Minimalism Teach Us About Leadership and Lean Processes?


Leadership teams traditionally like to keep processes efficient and organizations structured to maximize profits. Executives and managers know how to look at a process and discard the waste. This corporate instinct has grown the Canadian and American economies substantially over the decades.

Now I can’t help notice that a trend toward leanness is creeping into other aspects of life. Minimalism in design is now mainstream, and radical downsizing trends are New York Times bestsellers. What does all of this minimalism mean for organizational management or corporate leadership? What can minimalism teach us about leadership and lean processes that we don’t already know? I have some ideas.

  • A lean process without joy will not be effective. Marie Kondo in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” stresses that any attempt to organize will fail if it does not spring from joy. Her constant call to ask “does this spark joy?” reiterates that the result of organizing a closet should not be about throwing away a certain amount of things, but by eliminating useless or joyless objects in favor of real authenticity. In management terms, this means a department can’t be lean just because it has four rather than eight employees if the team members leftover are demotivated.
  • Lean processes will stick better if they are felt and experienced. Futurist John Wallman, author of Stuffocation, experimented with minimalist living by putting all of his belongings into storage and only retrieving them as needed. This process showed him which items were of real need and added meaning to his life. In a management context, having key stakeholders experience the process of elimination goes a long way.
  • Transparency means an authentic process is as good as a lean process. In the Guardian Wallman explained that America has rejected conspicuous consumption in favor of “experientialism” or as he explained, ”focusing on having nice experiences instead of on acquiring more stuff.” Through social media experiences are shared and admired more than the status symbols of the past. The transparency of social media has also changed the corporate world. The way a process appears and how it affects employees, customers, and the community at large is now just as important as the output. In the past the only thing that has touched the customer has been the product. Now the entire process and culture of the company is now available to influence overall brand.

The Amazon workload scandal and Volkswagon Emissions-gate indicate that corporate culture is at the forefront of American corporate consciousness. Infusing lean processes with elements of minimalist trends of today, can help keep corporate cultures in mind when improving processes and procedures.

Rebrand to Reconnect

We’ve spent the last year at Capability Connections re-tooling our offerings and rebranding our website in order to communicate these offerings to you more specifically. We’re really excited about the direction we are going and can’t wait to share the process with you.

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay connected to new developments and new offerings. And let us know what you think.