Smart change does not wait for the crisis – Elo Health / Nordic Business Report 2023
Change on a personal level is a task that has more dimensions and variables one might initially expect – but it holds the key to successful organizational change as well.
An organization consists of the people who have, for their own reasons, decided to jump aboard. The people are the building blocks that form the body and soul of their organization, they make the organization breath and act. It is the people’s input that point the organization to move to a certain direction.
Even when pressured by outside influences, whether that direction changes, is down to the people. And while deciding to make any change in an organization might be a rather straightforward matter in the board meeting agenda, the implementation of it is often something completely different.
An organization is a collection of cells, so to speak. Those cells, obviously meaning the people, are bound together by elements such as the organization’s purpose and values. These connections have been further strengthened by lucrative salaries and other incentives, as well as engagement strategies and team development days. In spite of all those bonding elements, every cell has a mind of its own. Especially in times of sudden change or crisis, these cells tend to head to quite different, often randomly chosen directions. This makes the organization as a whole move like an ameba, and the leaders soon find controlling the change extremely difficult to achieve.
”To understand how organizations change one must first learn to understand how people change,” Ari Tulla, CEO at Elo Health says. ”And, when it comes to personal change, the first thing to realize is that no one wants it.”
Supporting change on a personal level
Elo Health has dug deep into the human mindset to find the right buttons to push in order to provide a desperately needed nudge to the path towards healthier life span. Ari Tulla points out that the fundamental reason for the resistance towards change is the natural process of people growing up, during which we gradually stop learning new things naturally through play, instead finding ourselves stuck with our own habits.
As we get older, learning suddenly becomes difficult. Whether it is a new language or a new computer software, we struggle to get even through the first chapter while watching the children familiarize themselves with new things at an instant.
”The pressure we feel about learning something new creates a major obstacle”, Tulla explains. ”The situation is precisely the same when we try to change our current habits.”
For children, summers are longer and filled with wonderful memories and unforgettable events. The older we get, the shorter and emptier the years become. Our perception of time vanishes – and that is just because we stick with all those familiar, safe habits we have become so accustomed to. We like them because they don’t challenge us, but they don’t create vivid memories, either.
”As adults, we remember only the most significant moments, such as trips abroad, but even those memories become scarcer with time”, Tulla continues. ”This is the core of the challenge we all face when trying to support people in their attempts to change.”
Attempt it indeed is for many. When we talk about overweight, smoking, and other things people want to get rid of, most of us recognize the need for change very clearly. The tough part is to find the determination to do it.
Very few of us can change just out of will – for the rest, change happens out of some kind of compulsion. Whether that arrives in the form of heart attack, fear of death, divorce, or anything else, some kind of drama or even trauma is required. Otherwise, all those new year resolutions that begin with alcohol-free Januarys and annual tickets to the gym will again be completely forgotten by the end of March.
”People sign up for exercise classes and learning platforms, then give them up but keep paying the monthly fee just in case they come up with determination to continue”, Ari Tulla describes. ”They want to maintain that opportunity to change. But it won’t happen without real threat.”
Instead of trying to solve a dramatic problem, supporting change should begin with optimizing human behavior.
Optimizing human behavior for continuous performance
The same goes with people who are motivated to become better in everything they do – such as business leaders. Motivation to improve performance and capability to focus on the future from the perspective of important things are essential. While most of us are so bound by daily tasks and things to take care of, enabling change requires ability to commit to thinking about the big picture.
”We ask every one of our customers about their targets for change, but we don’t settle for answers such as a certain amount of weight they want to lose in six months”, Tulla mentions. ”We want their big, hairy, audacious goals, and people answer with unbelievably beautiful dreams. Some want to go hiking with their grandchildren at the age of 70, some want to go heli-skiing to Alaska. They want to do things that they are now able to do – or were able to do when they were younger.”
This is what optimization is all about – ensuring that the ideal performance level can continue in the future. Achieving that obviously requires different things in different times. For Elo Health customers, it means smarter nutrition, for leaders and organizations something else. The key is to get to know yourself and what reaching your goal 30 years from now requires from you today.
For individuals and businesses alike, successful change is about extending healthy life span. Ari Tulla emphasizes that while healthcare professionals are the specialists in saving lives, smart nutrition companies like Elo Health have a significant role in determining how that life can eventually be lived.
”Everyone wants to live at home, surrounded by the loved ones, for as long as possible instead of spending the last years of their lives comatose and wrapped in tubes. While we do not necessarily make people live longer, we ensure that their last years will be as high-quality as possible.”
Data driving the change
Ari Tulla believes that if something can be measured, it can be improved. To empower change, meters must be created for those who are motivated to go all-in. The more you can gamify the process, the better.
”This kind of services have not existed mainly due to not having sufficient meters available. We have been able to measure certain things such as height, weight, and blood pressure, and today we can extend those measurements to more sophisticated level in terms of sleep, activity, and recovery, and so on. One thing that we are still working on is measuring the real-time effect of nutrition.”
Glucose levels can already be measured almost real-time, and that provides valuable information about how the amount of glucose in blood goes up in a flash after a pizza. In the sense that we only notice the drop ourselves in the form of a post-lunch coma, these measurements help avoid unhealthy rises that would otherwise go unnoticed.
”We are creating traffic lights that would provide information about what is smart and what is not when it comes to nutrition. A continuous wave of red lights is an efficient signal for change – this helps enormously changing into a healthier lifestyle.”
Easy does it – especially with change
Deep down, empowering change is about making it as easy as humanly possible. Ari Tulla points out that if change leads to life becoming more difficult than what it is today, it won’t happen. Elo Health has understood that for example blood samples must be such an easy task to take the customer hardly notices. Pinching oneself to get blood is way out of bounds, it all must happen automatically, even in an ambient way. When the device is hidden and does not make a sound, the situation is ideal.
The feedback, also, must be always positive. Even if things are not going exactly great, we must build on the positives. If change begins to feel like an effort, let alone work, it stops.
Change must be covered in a form where it conveys the message of unreserved support and the ability to make life easier. That is why Elo Health brought in an expensive but necessary element – human coaches.
”People want people to support their change. A coach or a mentor who can hold you responsible for what you have decided to achieve helps everyone. We all want to do good things and get better, but if nobody asks us on a weekly, monthly or even annual basis about what we have actually done, we just won’t do it.”
The world is full of validated models for change – measurements, coaching, gamification, and accountability groups are proven tools for support. These tools need sufficient services built around them, and Elo Health is right at the forefront of this in enabling personal change.
The best change is done before it becomes a must
The traffic lights that were mentioned earlier could play an extremely significant role in guiding people to change their habits for the better. As contradictory as it may sound, the same food that causes us diseases could, when consumed in a smart way, be our ticket to permanent change for the better.
”Smart nutrition can in the future determine what we should eat at any given moment”, Ari Tulla says. ”The same nutrition that is the source for overweight, chronical diseases and premature deaths, could become the cure.”
We eat continuously food that causes different kinds of inflammation in our body, and we keep doing that because we do not have means to realize the effect. This is however, changing and in the future, by bringing in nutrition to complement the current combination of medication and health care services.
Today, health care cures only things that come up in measurements – such as high blood pressure. If the numbers look good, nothing is done. The yellow light zone is vague though, so there is no telling what those numbers will look like next time. Smart nutrition helps keep the numbers away from the red zone, which in the long run benefits both the patient and the society. Change is, at best, implemented at the time when you can do it instead of waiting until the drama happens, and you are forced to react. Why settle for controlling the damage when you can entirely avoid it?
Healthy mind in a healthy body brings in results
Ari Tulla brings up that deep down, we all want to be good people and both when it comes to personal of business life, we want to perform well. If we have concerns, performing well becomes impossible. Ensuring the well-being of employees is one of the most essential things for successful organizations, even and especially if change is expected.
”In the ideal world, the employees have one and only one concern in their mind when they are at work: how do I do the best possible job for my employer. When the employer has taken care of all the rest, the possibility to succeed in that is a lot better.”
Most of us, in addition to our other concerns, worry about our health, and that is a big deal also from the organization’s point of view.
When leaders prepare their organizations for better performance or even a significant change, they should also pay attention to ways to ease the burden of personal health from their employees’ shoulders. Besides the improved energy levels and working efficiency, smart nutrition can boost self-esteem and help make a downright transformative difference in the working environment. Employees with all that personal development under their belts are able to make the organization thrive, even in the most substantial changes.