An international group of researchers has established that people feel it's easier to achieve a small incremental goal than to maintain the status quo, thanks to a quirk in the way our brain evaluates goals.
Is it true that no change is easier than any change? Not always, suggests a new study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
"When evaluating goal difficulty, our brain first considers the gap between the starting point and the desired state. Usually, the bigger the gap, the more difficult the goal. However, if there is no gap to speak of, as in the case of a status quo goal, the brain starts scanning the context, anticipating potential reasons for failure," says Amitava Chattopadhyay, the co-author of the study.
When a status quo goal is directly compared to one that involves a modest improvement, objectivity prevails: The absence of a gap makes the status quo goal seems easier, as logic would dictate.
The study indicates how managers shall set goals such that sales quotas. They should be aware that status quo goals are less attractive than ones involving a slight increment. This may be especially true if the economy is in a downturn, as a status quo goal will precisely draw the staff's attention to the negative context and have a demoralising effect.