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A structure for navigating the icy waters of change

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A structure for navigating the icy waters of change

So, ice baths. They sound like torture to me! But apparently there’s a valid argument for this bizarre concept and it relates well to the way we manage change… 

The cold therapy trend is clearly a popular one, with the first electric cryotherapy chamber having recently opened in the UK for people to enjoy regular sessions at -120c!

I wanted to understand what would possess people to expose themselves to these icy blasts or choose to stand shivering under a chilly shower for increasing periods of time.


Stimulated by stressors

Turns out it’s all about hormesis – these ‘positive stressors’ enable us to push beyond our comfort levels and adapt to change. With the right intensity, a stressor can make us physically and mentally stronger and healthier, and primed for a deeper impact on the next exposure. 

It’s interesting how this icy analogy can be likened to the way we build psychological flexibility, not only to face personal challenges but also the continual change we experience at work. 


A chilly approach to workplace change 

From preventing injury to improving mental health, cold therapy offers plenty of ways to build resilience. Which is something that goes a long way to preparing for and adapting to change!

Kurt Lewin’s change model has been around for decades yet it holds true today as an effective framework for aiding employees’ ability to adapt. The three distinct phases break down those iceberg sized change chunks into more manageable stages.


Phase one: Unfreeze

Firstly we ‘melt the ice’ to make it open to change and create motivation. This first part of the process is usually the most difficult and stressful – something new and different is coming so we’ll need to brace ourselves. Like the moment we plunge into that icy water for the very first time, we’re preparing for future challenges and teaching ourselves to stay calm under pressure.

While we won’t be pouring a giant freezing bath for employees to hop into, as comms pros, there are some things we can do to help them prepare for change: 

  • Create and share a compelling message about why the change has to happen despite the discomfort we may be feeling. 
  • Emphasise the “why”, communicating the vision in terms of the change required.
  • Remain open to employees’ concerns, listen attentively, and address their issues in terms of the need to change.


Phase two: Change 

With a few frosty showers under our belts, we’re feeling energised and our resilience is building. We’re starting to work with the change and tiptoe towards our new ways of working and being. We’re feeling physically and mentally able to start resolving those initial uncertainties, beginning to believe and act in ways that support the new direction.

As comms pros we can help to maintain momentum and avoid slipping back into the warm waters of familiarity by: 

  • Explaining how the changes will continue to affect everyone and how we intend to navigate through the discomfort of them
  • Staying ahead of rumours and dispelling them – answer questions honestly, deal with problems openly, and relate the need for change back to operational necessities.
  • Empowering people by involving them in the process, where appropriate, and providing line managers with the tools they need to give day-to-day direction.


Phase three: Refreeze 

This final stage of the change involves ‘refreezing and embedding’ into our new state. Having practiced our icy dunking to perfection, we’re primed for a fresh new beginning, and feeling ready to deal with the days ahead. As seasoned experts, we’ve become the winning Wim Hofs of the workplace!

With a greater sense of clarity and stability now, people have embraced the new ways of working and are feeling comfortable with the latest BAU. To firmly anchor these changes into the organisation’s culture, comms pros can support by communicating clearly about the new state, and how the changes are being incorporated into the everyday.

We can also help by:

  • Ensuring leadership support and keeping the SLT visible as they role model the new behaviours that support the change.
  • Maintaining feedback systems and keeping two-way lines of communication open.
  • Celebrating successes big and small to demonstrate how people are working through the discomfort and winning! 


Confronting change with confidence 

Facing change means stepping away from the comforting warmth of familiarity. But by building our resilience to prepare for what’s to come we can thaw the frosty thoughts that hold us back. 

“If we always choose comfort, we never learn the deepest capabilities of our mind or body. It is moments like this that we need to face our fears. The best way to have such a moment is to gradually confront the fear and approach it in a way that is both exciting and inspiring. You have to be decisive and physically prepared to do your best. After that, little by little, you will see progress.” | Wim (The Iceman) Hof


By Caroline Roodhouse for Alive! 

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Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

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Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

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DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

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Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

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Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

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Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

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Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

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Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

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Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

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Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

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Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

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Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

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At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

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Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

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Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

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Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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