Why is Change so Hard? A Mini Case Study

When trying to initiate a change, leaders can expect resistance and see it as an opportunity for connection. Influencing change happens when we are open to changing ourselves, too.

By Sarah McMullin | March 07, 2022

You probably type like you’re from the 1800s.1Even if you’re a speedy typist, you are likely using an antiquated system not designed for you and your electricity-powered devices.

If I were tasked with creating a keyboard layout from scratch, I would start with the logical option of organizing letters alphabetically, like the inventors of the typewriter did in 1868.2 It seems like the simplest, most obvious solution.

Almost immediately, the typewriter companies learned that alphabetic organization was a problem. The common letters and combinations were placed in ways that made the mechanical keys jam together and get stuck. The words we use the most were the most problematic to type. It wasn’t just hard to use. Typing was slower than writing by hand.


And so, the winding journey to the QWERTY keyboard began. Users didn’t want to work with jammed keys Morse code receivers needed number keys. Certain patents needed to be circumvented. In 1882, the layout we recognize today was finalized.

QWERTY refers to the first six keys on the top left letter row of a keyboard. It is the most commonly used layout in countries that use Latin alphabetic writing. The keyboard has a large number of specific language variants—like the German QWERTZ and French AZERTY—all based on a layout adopted in 1882.

The technology-rich, modern world runs largely on an input that has not changed in almost two and a half centuries.

Why not? How did we get stuck with industrial revolution technology in the digital revolution era?

Today, we value speed, accuracy, and efficiency in our typing, whether on a computer, terminal, or touchscreen. QWERTY is not particularly great at those things. Many alternative keyboard layouts have been introduced over the centuries.


The biggest rival, introduced in the late 1930s, was the Dvorak keyboard layout.3 August Dvorak introduced an ergonomically designed keyboard reported to be faster and more accurate.

A 1998 study found that Dvorak outperformed QWERTY by 4%.4 In a world where efficiency is king, 4% is worth noticing.

So, if there is a better more efficient keyboard layout, why has there not been a switch? The answer lies within our mindset towards change and new ways of thinking. Here are 3 lessons to take from this mini case study:

Lesson 1: Resistance to Change is Normal

Change is a universal part of life. Most often, people hear or see some sort of change and immediately start to resist. Whether it is a new company training, a different process, or a software change, our minds are trained to resist newness. Similar to the QWERTY keyboard and the Dvorak, it doesn’t matter if it will make life easier or it is a better way, it’s different and means something has to change. When trying to initiate a change, leaders can expect resistance and see it as an opportunity for connection. Influencing change happens when we are open to changing ourselves, too.

Lesson 2: Change Takes Time

As cliché as it sounds, change doesn’t happen overnight. I spent about fifteen minutes on a typing website testing the Dvorak keyboard before giving up. It’s not that it was so hard I couldn’t figure it out, but that QWERTY is ingrained in my brain. The neural pathways in my brain are well-worn and changing them would be as hard as riding a backwards bicycle. Naturally, this is going to take time and practice but is very possible to achieve with the right mindset. This is especially true in a group or work setting. Understanding it takes time for mindsets to change and new behaviors to form will ultimately lead to better results. See how we teach this in our Outward Mindset Online Sample Course.

Lesson 3: It’s About the Journey


For a change in behavior to last, there needs to be a fundamental shift in mindset. Simply changing behaviors doesn’t always work, and usually only results in short-term changes. The unfortunate part of this work is that it isn’t sexy and it’s hard to sell. Being committed to the journey of mindset change takes daily practice, dedication, and consistent effort. It’s committing to doing the hard work of confronting old ways of seeing the world and how they may be hindering progress. But when this work is done right and in a safe environment, where change is not demanded but encouraged, the right kind of changes start to happen. The risk isn’t in taking the journey, but in rejecting it altogether.

At Arbinger, we help individuals, organizations, and communities see change is possible. We do this by helping people see with an outward mindset, which starts with seeing everyone around you as they are, a person. When we can do this well, influencing change, resolving conflict, and living healthier lives become natural ways of being wherever one might find themselves.

If you’re looking to help influence change in your organization, we’d love to help. Chat with our team today to see how we can help influence change and bring the results you’ve been wanting.

  1. http://www.google.com/patents/US207559?dq=U.S.+Patent+No.+207,559&hl=en&sa=X&ei=nqmCUZWKEubr0gGN5YGgAw&ved=0CDYQ6wEwAA
  2. https://repository.kulib.kyoto-u.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/2433/139379/1/42_161.pdf
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-10925456
  4. https://www.santafe.edu/research/results/working-papers/the-standard-and-dvorak-keyboards-revisited-direct