How We Respond to Unexpected Change

I was researching a certain topic when I came across the Hopson and Adams model of adult transition (shown in the image below). We’ve all been there. Change happens unexpectedly—and now have to face it and adapt to it.

The Hopson and Adams cycle of adult transition

Despite what they write in motivational books, adapting to unexpected change is not an easy process to have to undergo for anyone. A life or career event occurs. Maybe your job gets automated. Or your company gets acquired and everyone from your team, including you, gets laid off.

First, there’s the initial shock. Depending on the type of event (positive or trauma/loss), you are either overexcited or numb. In both cases, you are in the extremes and you will eventually have to break your psychological fall once the next period, the honeymoon or denial period, is over.

Next come uncertainty, loss of confidence, confusion, depression and crisis. Congratulations, you’ve entered what Seth Godin calls the Dip. Now is a good time to decide whether to quit or to go on. Some of us will quit and have to go through an extended crisis. Others will accept reality as it is and recover from the shock only partially (We all know one such person. We’ve all been this person. The one who got screwed once—and now does everything in his or her power to avoid it happening again.) The third and, according to Hopkins and Adams, lucky ones will go on exploring this new world, testing their new approaches, and re-building their confidence; achieving full psychological transformation following the traumatic life event.

With the technological developments in machine learning and process automation, I think that, in the very near future (most probably the next decade), we will be there more and more often. The education system, focused on training humans to perform tasks that will get automated by computers, will be slow and inadequate to respond. Governments will be unaware of the real impact of job automation until it takes effect. And we as individuals will experience inner contradictions and inner crises as we have to adapt to a world where computers are smarter than us.

Sooner or later, we will get to recovery and reconstruction.

Where to read more:

Innovation Manager at ICB, a software company. Curious about the technology of business and the business of technology.