Declinism: Why we think the past was better than the future

I have previously shared research about the cognitive bias of the rosy retrospective.

In it, we found evidence that people seem to remember things as more positive than they were in reality at the time they happened.

Now, there is another related but different bias which I quickly want to highlight: Declinism.

Declinism is not just the belief that things were better in the past, but that they will continue to get worse in the future as well.

While this is a powerful belief in looking at the rise and fall of political and national powers, as well as societal changes, it also may impact your innovation team.

Many employees at a company have seen what previously (historically) worked for them, and see that things are changing. They might feel negatively about the potential for the upcoming change as it may get worse than before, and therefore want to resist the change and keep the status quo.

As a result, getting buy-in for innovations which may change the company can be especially challenging.

To combat this, it may help to emphasise the positive impact of the project or solution you are hoping to implement, while also lessening the perception of how big a change it will be.

Ideally, you could also ask the individuals who may be resistant to express and write down what positive aspects the change may bring to them personally.

This should reduce the resistance and belief that the change will only bring a decline.

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.

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