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Issue #28 - Status Quo Bias ⛰️

Mental Models Weekly
Issue #28 - Status Quo Bias ⛰️
By Julia Clavien • Issue #28 • View online
This week’s mental model originated in the field of psychology and behavioral economics. It’s a particularly crucial mental model for those of us interested in effecting change in ourselves, or in others. Read on for your quick intro! 🧠

What is status quo bias?
Status quo bias is the human tendency towards wanting things stay the same, and to perceive any change to the status quo as a loss.
Researchers have found we have a tendency to prefer to keep the current state of affairs as it is, and a reluctance to take any action that will change this state. (One of the best studies came is from Samuelson & Zeckhauser and can be read here).
Change and status quo bias
It’s worth keeping status quo bias in mind if you are trying to implement any kind of change.
Many of you are involved in building new organizations, or bringing changes to existing organizations via introducing a new process or product. Doing anything innovative or disruptive is a direct challenge to the status quo, and can be more challenging than we might first expect - because of status quo bias!
Here’s a neat diagram that comes a book by Linda Gorchels that shows a flow of changing the status quo related to product development. As you can see it’s not a one step process:
Image by Linda Gorchels
Image by Linda Gorchels
I like how Adam Grant acknowledges the difficulties in changing the status quo - with a nod to status quo bias in his book Originals. I’ll leave you with his pragmatic advice:
Strike the appropriate balance between resonating with the existing cultural repertoire and challenging the status quo.
Want to go deeper?
🔖 The full paper from Samuelson & Zeckhauser diving into the detail of the research can be found here
📖 I liked the uncommon wisdom and pragmatism in the the book Originals around innovation and challenging the status quo
🧠 Revisit somewhat related mental models: Activation Energy, The Boiling Frog
😆 Douglas Adams had this interesting semi-related take on things that gave me a wry smile:
Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 
Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
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Julia Clavien

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