We live in a world of constant change. Every day individuals and organisations find new ways to improve how they work, rendering previously trusted methods obsolete.
Many of us are creatures of habit, comfortable in our existing routines and ways of working. The prospect of major change, particularly in the workplace, stirs up questions such as “why are we doing this?”, “will I continue to enjoy what I do?” or “does this mean I’ll have even more work to do?”. This line of questioning especially if not explored and answered, builds resistance to change in the hope that eventually things will go back to the way they were. In a world of fast transformation, this is not a long-term solution!
In this article, we’ll look to uncover some the key reasons why even in a world of persistent innovation, change is nothing to be afraid of and how you can be less tentative and more prepared when it arises.
1. Change happens, it’s unavoidable.
In 2000, Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco. The plan was for Netflix to run Blockbuster’s brand online and Antioco’s firm would promote Netflix in its stores. Blockbuster rejected the deal. In 2010, Blockbuster, who had been the titan of the video rental industry, filed for bankruptcy. Their joint venture with Netflix was not necessarily Blockbuster’s downfall, but it was their refusal to innovate in a marketplace that was steamrollering into a digital world. Today, Netflix’s market capitalisation is over $130 billion.
Throughout your work and personal life, you will experience change. It could be a challenging new sales target or a complete company restructure. At some point the ways of working that you rely on, will in some way or another, need to be adapted. For some people change is almost unbearable, so one way to prepare yourself for future change is to make small regular alterations to your day-to-day routine, for example you could take a different route on your commute or get your morning coffee from another shop. The more often you do this, the more you will your brain will adapt to change, helping you to prepare for bigger changes when they eventually arrive.
“Change is sometimes uncomfortable, I should have known that as we’d been through so much, but we would be stronger and better because of it.” – Ben Hunt-Davis
Another way to deal with change is make sure you control the controllables. Josh Trebilcock touches on this topic well in his article “Focus on Performance to Get Results” – the idea is to focus on the mechanisms of your work that you still have influence over, as opposed to those parts which you cannot control. John Antioco did not have control over the movement of video streaming into a digital marketplace, but he could have influenced Blockbusters decision to pivot from physical stores to digital delivery.
2. Mindset Shift
If you embrace change, often you will find yourself in a better position than before. By developing a growth mindset, you can start to view new situations as opportunities rather than obstacles.
After missing out on medals in both 1992 & 1996, Ben Hunt-Davis knew that the tactics and training practises they had used before would not be good enough to win them gold in 2000. They understood that if they wanted their results to change, they had to think and behave differently. Ben had spent most of his rowing career using very specific methods of training that would not be easy to give up on, after all, they had made him an Olympian and one of Britain’s top rowers. They began to adopt a completely new way of working, holding each other to account and focusing on their performance instead of result. They challenged everything they did, from the very technical aspects of their performance through to how they spoke to each other each day. They relied heavily on feedback and began to look for new methods that would make their boat go faster. If something they tried didn’t improve boat speed, they would make a further change and try something else. In the 2000 Olympic final, Ben and the crew had completely changed their way of working so much they were able to cross the finish line faster than the crews who had previously always beaten them
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill
3. Take Control of Change
When a big change happens, it is important that you do everything in your power to take charge of the process. Imagine two people who have both been made redundant from their job on the same day, one becomes angry at their employer and become dejected feeling they have been mistreated, whilst the other holds their head up high and immediately begins looking for a new position. Who is more likely to land on their feet? It is important to be ready to ask key questions like “What is the upside here?” “How can I take advantage of this?” “What’s the next step?”. Changes are most difficult when we try to resist them or worse yet do nothing about them, it is crucial that we are willing to adapt and ready to get on the front foot… no matter how hard that is sometimes.
Whether it’s redundancy, a break-up, a promotion, a new career path, how we live through these experiences will play a fundamental part in shaping who we are and what kind of life we lead. And whilst they might not always be easy transitions, the way we approach and handle these larger changes may just be some of the most important moments in our lives.