Change doesn’t happen quickly.  Most people understand the messaging of required change, but that doesn’t mean that they can immediately flip their current habits.  Maybe an early adopter or two, but change takes time.  Forceful and immediate change generally leads to revolt.  Robert Greene offers that we make change feel like “a gentle improvement on the past.”

Excuse the frequent use of “football as life” symbolism, but the University of Nebraska football program provides a great example of sound change strategies.  I’m not sure how intentional or knowing the effort is, but all involved parties are believing in the change movement with the head coach and former player, Scott Frost.

The change of the future for Nebraska football is aligned to implicitly return to the “old way” of operating a football program and associate with the winning ways of that past.  The ritualistic traditions of the past are all being engaged, but hidden within this is an entirely different and modernized offensive and defensive scheme/game plan.  The symbolic and practiced emphasis on reviving the past has captured the appearance and support for a vastly different approach to winning games overall.  I’ll let Machiavelli’s quote from the early 1500’s describe this change logic more eloquently in the quote below.  The tangible lesson here is to gently improve on the past with change efforts.

“He who desires or attempts to reform the government of a state, and wishes to have it accepted, must at least retain the semblance of the old forms; so that it may seem to the people that there has been no change in the institutions, even though in fact they are entirely different from the old ones.  For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities.”   — Niccolo Machiavelli —

Now the Nebraska football team simply needs to win and only then will they move beyond an appearance of realities to real change.


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