Managing Change Like Your Business Depends On It

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It used to be a simple act of faith that the earth was flat, the sun revolved around the Earth, and that the sun would always rise and set on the British Empire.

Of course, none of those things is really true any longer. (Though I know that technically the sun does never set on the British Empire.)

I bring these things up because they are a great reminder that change is constant.

Lately, we’ve seen a lot of talk about the decline in the ratings of the NFL and the collapse of TV.

When you look at both of them, you’ll see a reminder that baseball used to be the national pastime and before TV was the popular mass media form, we had the radio.

Not to beat a dead horse, but before baseball become the national pastime there wasn’t a sport or activity that we would call the national pastime because our society was built around growing crops and we lacked the technology to move rapidly from place to place to compete in games.

Before radio, there were newspapers because they were the only things that we had access to at the time that would enable us to record and share news and stories.

This is important because what we often fail to recognize is that change isn’t something that can be stopped, it is something that is constant.

In the modern American economy, we see a preponderance of supposedly “new” and “breakthrough” products that aren’t really breakthroughs but are definitely new.

Why is this a challenge?

Because change is constant and our ability to embrace it is what typically drives our economy and provides the opportunity for SMEs.

The story of the modern American economy is one of consolidation and timidity…these can be long-term problems because if we aren’t careful, we punt away our biggest competitive advantage which is our people, our education system, and our access to talent from around the globe.

But I want to drill back to the micro for a moment because for many organizations, change is something that creates great fear in an organization. Yet, change is as inevitable as getting older…it isn’t something you can stop or ignore, it just is.

So it is imperative that you spend your time and focus on managing change and using it to your advantage. Here are a couple of ideas how you can embrace change in your own organization.

Focus on where you want to go next: We are scared off of the word innovation in a lot of cases because we feel like innovation has to be some major event that is scary and requires some skill set that is unique and rare.

The truth is that most innovations are earth-shaking and they don’t require a special skillset outside of the consistent focus on improvement.

To manage change, you have to understand and embrace that where you are is just a point in time and that the way to continue to grow your business is by focusing on what’s next.

In listening to James Andrew Miller’s series of conversations with Nick Saban, you are taken by the idea that success isn’t a fixed point, but a continued search for what will work next.

That’s change and that’s one way to manage it.

What has already happened: Peter Drucker used to write about “the future that has already occurred.”

One thing that Peter Drucker mentioned a lot was that we don’t always do a very good job of recognizing the things that are already happening right outside our door.

Recently and consistently, Tom Goodwin has been preaching about the next wave of issues popping up in our society is due to the erosion of the American middle class. He’s very much spot on pointing that out because as we have seen many companies have begun formulating their products towards consumers that are going to consistently have less money and we see that younger adults that got their starts just out of the gate during the financial crisis in 2008 are making less than adults in other generations.

I use this as an example because I think it is informative of a larger trend that we see where there is a huge bubble on either side of the divide: huge on both ends and your strategies might work out better if you pay attention to that fact.

In the arts and sports, there seems to be a focus on trying to capture and push everything towards the premium, high end.

But is that really reflected truthfully in the things that have happened in the world around us?

For all of you, looking at the world through the lens of what trends are on display and likely to impact your industry over the next decade or two can be a tremendous opportunity.

These are just two ideas, but the key point is that you have to recognize and manage change like every other risk factor in your business. And, just as importantly, you can also recognize that risk is an opportunity…because it isn’t like you can avoid change.

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