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Wednesday, 14 August 2013 05:46

Word of the Day: Salutogenesis

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Aaron Antonovsky was a social scientist at the Ben Gurion University in Israel who studied what he called salutogenesis, or “how people manage stress and stay well”.  The goal of his research was to understand how some people remain healthy their whole lives, no matter what happens to them, while others do not. 

He said that our orientation to life was comprised of three main areas:

  • Comprehensibility (how we make sense of our world)
  • Manageability (our sense of control and our belief that we have the skills to do what needs to be done)
  • Meaningfulness (how interesting and purposeful we find life to be)

These ideas are particularly relevant when we’re thinking about change within an organization:

  • Change is most likely to succeed when the people affected by it also understand it (comprehensibility)
  • Change is most likely to succeed when the people involved are confident that they will be able to cope with it (manageability)
  • Change is most likely to succeed when the people affected by it feel that it has meaning and purpose for them (meaningfulness)

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that addressing comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness in your change strategy is crucial to success.  Here’s what I mean:



I’ve written before about how communication is the #1 factor in the success of change.  Comprehensibility happens when you establish the right ‘story’ around a change, and then communicate it clearly, consistently and often.


It sounds trite, but it’s true:  People really are capable of great things when they know that the people around them (especially those in leadership positions) believe in them.  When you empower your employees, and let them know that you have faith in their ability to successfully navigate a change, you’ll find they’ll exceed your expectations, every time.


Want to derail a change initiative, fast?  When your employees ask “Why are we doing this?”, answer them with “Because head office says so.”  (A close second is “Because we’re driving shareholder value,” when you know the person you’re talking to doesn’t actually own any shares.)  If you want people to put in the extra effort required to implement a change successfully, you need to help them understand why and how it is important to them:  “It will make your day-to-day job easier,” or “It will allow our department to contribute more to the bottom line, which means our bonuses will increase.” 

And now, I dare you to use ‘salutogenesis’ in a sentence this week!

Read 4617 times Last modified on Thursday, 15 August 2013 02:40

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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