What is Intentional Change Theory In Behavior Change?

What is Intentional Change Theory?

Intentional Change Theory (ICT) is a psychological model developed by Richard Boyatzis in 2006 that focuses on understanding and facilitating sustainable, desired change in individuals and organizations. ICT posits that change is an iterative process involving five stages: (1) discovering the ideal self, (2) exploring the real self, (3) developing a learning agenda, (4) experimenting with new behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, and (5) practicing these new behaviors to integrate them into one’s identity. Central to the theory is the concept of positive emotional attractors (PEAs) and negative emotional attractors (NEAs), which represent the emotional states that either facilitate or hinder change. PEAs, such as hope, optimism, and compassion, are essential for driving intentional change, while NEAs, like fear, stress, and anxiety, can impede the change process.

How is Intentional Change Theory used?

  • Leadership Development

    ICT is frequently applied in leadership development programs, helping leaders identify their ideal selves, recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and develop a learning agenda to achieve their leadership goals. By focusing on positive emotional attractors, these programs encourage personal growth and resilience in the face of challenges.

  • Coaching and Mentoring

    Coaches and mentors use ICT to guide individuals through the intentional change process, helping them to create a vision of their ideal selves, understand their real selves, and develop a personalized learning plan to bridge the gap. This approach promotes self-awareness, self-directed learning, and sustainable behavior change.

  • Organizational Change

    Organizations can apply ICT principles to facilitate large-scale change by promoting a shared vision of the ideal organization, understanding the current organizational reality, and developing a strategic plan to achieve the desired state. By focusing on positive emotional attractors, organizations can create a supportive environment for change, enhance employee engagement, and foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

  • Personal Development

    Individuals can use ICT as a self-guided framework for personal development, identifying their own ideal selves, assessing their current strengths and weaknesses, and creating a personal learning agenda to achieve their goals. This approach can help individuals cultivate self-awareness, resilience, and a growth mindset.

Shortcomings and Criticisms of Intentional Change Theory

  • Overemphasis on Positive Emotions

    One criticism of ICT is its strong focus on positive emotional attractors, potentially neglecting the role of negative emotions in the change process. Although negative emotions can hinder change, they may also serve as important signals to identify areas that require attention or improvement.

  • Individual Focus

    ICT primarily focuses on individual change, potentially overlooking the influence of external factors, such as organizational culture, social norms, and systemic barriers, on the change process. This individualistic focus may limit the theory’s applicability to broader social or organizational contexts.

  • Limited Empirical Validation

    While Intentional Change Theory has been widely applied in various contexts, there is limited empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of the theory in promoting sustainable behavior change. Further research is needed to validate the utility of ICT in guiding the development and evaluation of interventions.

  • Overgeneralization

    ICT is a relatively broad and general theory, which may not address the specific factors or mechanisms underlying change in different contexts or populations. Critics argue that a more targeted approach, tailored to the unique needs and characteristics of the individuals and contexts involved, may be more effective in promoting behavior change.

Related Articles

Default Nudges: Fake Behavior Change

Default Nudges: Fake Behavior Change

Read Article →
​Here's Why the Loop is Stupid

Here’s Why the Loop is Stupid

Read Article →
How behavioral science can be used to build the perfect brand

How behavioral science can be used to build the perfect brand

Read Article →
The death of behavioral economics

The Death Of Behavioral Economics

Read Article →