(b) What looks like laziness, is often exhaustion

Contract automation change management may be exhausting, if you make one of the crucial errors. The driver may get their way temporarily: tug the reins hard enough to move the elephant. Riders cannot win a tug-of-war with an elephant for long. They simply get exhausted.

Psychological research proves that when you instruct people to eat radishes instead of cookies, they will become mentally exhausted, more than people who were instructed to eat cookies but no radishes. For all of them, both radishes and cookies were visible on the table, so the radish eaters had to resist the nicer alternative. The outcome of the test was that when all were subsequently asked to perform a (what was in fact an unsolvable) mind-boggling puzzle, the radish eaters gave up solving the puzzle in less than half the time and after about half the number of attempts. That is significant, allowing to draw firm conclusions. And the conclusion may surprise you: radish eaters ran out of self-control by resisting the cookies.

Psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource. Dozens of studies have proven it. Although people do not perceive what they do as exhaustive, in fact, each time they have to resist or overcome something, it costs energy. While the elephant in them would have led them to eat cookies, the resistance (per the psychologists’ instructions, but intrinsically: their rider) to do so (and to eat radishes instead) exhausted their self-control.

Self-control defined. The term self-control must be defined in a narrow sense, as willpower needed to fight. Self-control includes self-supervision. Think of the way your mind works when you are giving negative feedback to an employee, writing the facts of a cease-and-desist letter in case of IPR-infringement or drafting a model contract to be used as the unabridged (all-inclusive) basis for any contract. You are careful and deliberate with your words. It feels like there is a supervisor on duty. That is self-control too.

Contrast it with contexts in which your behaviour does not feel ‘supervised’: drafting a contract based on your latest transaction-agreement. When you take a model contract, it is easier to delete irrelevant clauses, but you have to read a lot more. But what is it different from answering the questions underlying those clauses (where a computer inserts all related clauses and phrases everywhere where that is needed)? Especially when you can scroll through the contract text (in Weagree’s WYSIWYG contract text editor) and make any tweaks relevant to the current transaction?

Exhaustion, not laziness. Why does this matter for change? When lawyers try to change, they are typically struggling most with the part of their habits that have become automatic. Those habits require careful supervision by their internal rider. When lawyers exhaust their self-control, they are draining the mental muscles needed to think creatively, to focus and to persist. Those are precisely the muscles needed to make a big change. So when people in the business conclude that change is hard because lawyers are lazy or resistant, that is just flat wrong. Rather, the opposite is true: change is hard because lawyers wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: what looks like laziness is often exhaustion.

If you reach out to your legal department’s riders but not their elephants, they will have direction without motivation. Riders may drag their elephant down the road for a while, but not for long.