Change isn’t just the coins you have rattling around in that pocket of your bag you never look in. Change is evolution, and evolution is greater efficiency.
At the moment, change is happening rapidly. Consider this example: the first hard disk drive was called the IBM Model 350 Disk File. Launched in 1956 it was as large as a cupboard, so probably wasn’t designed with portability in mind. It could store a mind-boggling 5 megabytes of data. To put that into perspective, a 10 second video you take on your phone of your cat doing something stupid will be way more than 5 megabytes.
Just 58 years later, a tiny space of time in the history of technology, SanDisk released this tiny, postage stamp-sized memory card that can hold 512 gigabytes. There are 1000 megabytes in a gigabyte. That means you’d have to link up 102,400 of IBM’s cupboard contraptions in 1956 to store the same amount of information (and buy a small island to put them on). Within the last 10 years alone SD card capacity has increased 1000-fold, and engineers predict that, soon, these little cards that fit inside your camera or mobile phone will be able to hold up to 2terabytes of information. That’s 400,000 IBM cupboards.
It is clear that change is happening, and it’s happening fast. The rapid increases in technological innovation have facilitated rapid increases in the opportunity for growth through innovation. If you are willing to change, and openly encourage change through effective management, you will be well positioned to keep up with the incredibly dynamic modern business environment.
However, there is a difference between choosing to change, and having to change.
Most changes are simply preventative measures — organisations are keen to prevent, and immunise against, unmanageable negative developments in the market. These may not seem forced, but they are reactions all the same. They may not even be knee-jerk-type reactions, but they occur as a response to something out of the company’s control. There are many other, inescapable factors for change:perhaps there is new technology that competitors are using to outperform the company; or maybe a crisis occurs, such as the 2008 economic crash. Factors such as these require change because to avoid change would be to seriously jeopardise the long-term survival of the organisation.
On the other hand, organisations which make conscious, reasoned decisions to change go some way to protecting themselves against these unscripted, non-directed twists and turns. The best leaders facilitate this deliberate and strategic change, and are able to manage it. Deliberate and reasoned change can take many forms:
1) When companies continually ask themselves what defines their business; what its purpose is and what the business should ultimately look like. The re-evaluation of services, products and functions and the reaction to such insights is crucial to enable change.
2) When organisations are notled by technology — the organisation leads. We have seen already that technology evolves at a blindingly fast rate; keep ahead of the curve and utilise new technology even if it isn’t an obvious choice in your industry — you might just start the new big innovation.
3) When companies invest in people. People are what comprise an organisation after all, and providing training to managers and employees to develop new skills, behaviours and knowledge — to change their way of working for the better — is a method the best leaders utilise to build phenomenal teams of like-minded individuals.
Furthermore, often, when leaders make deliberate, strategic changes to one area of the organisation, other areas follow suit. The change becomes a ripple that spreads across the company. Leaders creating efficient networks within the management structure of a company can encourage this ripple effect. Such networks allow space for conversation; dialogue which moulds action and process within the tunnel of the company vision.
However, change is not only a troublesome concept to implement in practical terms, it is a tough concept to embrace psychologically. In Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life, Grosz, a psychoanalyst, tells the story of a 9/11 South Tower survivor he treated. He explains that, upon seeing the disaster just metres away when the first plane struck the North Tower, his patient immediately exited the building, not stopping to collect her belongings or shut down her computer or tidy her desk. Her close friend and co-worker did the opposite — she went to find some precious family photographs and other valuables. Her friend didn’t escape. The patient remembers looking on in horror as people went into meetings, picked up calls, started making cups of coffee, convinced that where they were was probably the safest place to be in the whole city right then, and they would only have to shuffle back upstairs embarrassed that they had been one of the people to evacuate for nothing.
The difficult thing about change is that it always entails some sort of loss. For the poor victims in the South Tower, the thought of losing their possessions — or losing 10 minutes of their working day, or losing face if they had evacuated unnecessarily — meant that they, heartbreakingly, did not embrace change; they did not break their habit.
It is often hard to do something differently if the way you normally do it seems safe and easy to replicate. As humans we value safety, and it is commented all too frequently that we are creatures of habit. But, sometimes, to stand still, to be content with where you are, is more dangerous than to move. Leaders, and their organisations, that stand still put themselves in a dangerous position. In our modern environment of lightning-fast development, improvement, innovation and evaluation, it is vital that you make sure you are well acquainted with the immense benefits of change.