Change is the only constant. Change is opportunity, crisis, strength and weakness all rolled into one. If you are a “Who moved my cheese” fan (I’m more of a Johnny Bunko fan) then you know that it is you who decides how you will feel about a change and how you respond to the change can make a big difference.
And it is certainly easier to say all that when you aren’t going through a change…
My blog has been a bit quiet of late because we have been going through a change at the office, and obviously these things don’t just appear instantaneously.
I find it quite unnerving that when these sorts of changes are in the air, we only talk about them in very hushed tones, only with those who we trust, and only seriously if we have been given an official heads up. But is secrecy really the way to go?
Argument 1: It may change again.
– Just imagine if we didn’t tell people about things because they might change again.
Argument 2: The secret will get out.
– Chances are it probably already is out. Plus not sharing doesn’t exactly send a vote of confidence to those around you.
Argument 3: People’s lives are involved.
– There is a grain of truth here about some people being more impacted than others, but once those people are spoken to and involved in the discussion, is there really a problem with this? Would they be even more likely to want to hear and talk about the opportunities the change is creating in other areas of the business?
At the heart of all this though is something about the way we (don’t) share our ideas before they are completed. Seth Godin refers to it as shipping. Getting the product/service/thingy/ idea out there as soon as you can, so that you can get some real feedback on it, make it better based on some of that feedback and the good ideas other people have, involving the key customers so it works best for them – they are the ones who we need to “buy” it after all.
There are lots of reasons why people don’t want to share their idea before it is complete (fear of negative feedback being a big one)…but maybe the possibilities of sharing can be so much bigger & better.
And if it relates to a really big idea, doesn’t that make the possibilities of sharing even better…
“The key to change…is to let go of fear” – Rosanne Cash
I was out buying shoes this weekend (I wish it could have been these performance enhancing shoes – I need something like them to avoid this picture happening over and over) and came across some behaviour that was quite clearly broken (according to Seth Godin anyway).
Broken 1: Trying on shoes usually means inserting the laces into the holes. This isn’t that hard UNLESS there is an anti-theft device taking up the space where the laces are meant to go. I joked to the shop assistant that we needed someone to invent a pair of shoes to better deal with these security devices (laughter followed). Interestingly though, not an offer to remove the device.
– Good Response: Assistant automatically removes security device.
– Better Response: Assistant speaks to manager about placement of security devices or placement of shores in store to reduce risk of theft.
Broken 2: Having now purchased a pair of shows, I returned to the first store I visited (where I had asked the shop assistant to hold a pair of shoes for me). I found the same assistant and told him I had found something else. He nodded and went about his day.
– Good Response: Assistant thanks customer for returning and gives a cheery “hope we see you next time”
– Better Response: Assistant asks customer a couple of simple questions about their purchase (what, where, why) to better understand the competitive position of store (reporting this to the store manager), and then thanks customer for their time.
While it would be easy to blame the assistant in both cases, it would be far more productive to think about how the store management could have encouraged their shop assistants to either follow a better response guideline or encourage them to think more freely for themselves. For me, this is something like a company statement about their people needing to be more innovative – even though its people have nifty blogs (no, not like mine, imaginative creative stuff ), great things they share in social media, and maybe even do inspiring volunteer work for a non-profit. The problem is usually too many boundaries. Something I would suggest Netflix don’t have a problem with.
I can only aspire to be like that for people I work with.
“There is no greater challenge than to have someone relying upon you; no greater satisfaction than to vindicate his expectation” – Kingman Brewster
If you know anything about DARPA then driverless cars is not a surprise to you. Trying to get a car to do the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb at speed (like Audi is going to do) or negotiate a full on urban situation (like Google is going to do) is quite a step further. The Audi thing is more like a “because it’s there” kind of challenge, but the Google version is about doing good in the world and reducing the road toll (something we obsess over in Australia (in comparison to deaths per capita shown here or here). IDEO think we need a better set of controls to make driving a car easier for us to help that, but we haven’t done that well with remote controls so far.
So why are there problems like this in the world? Maybe we are phoning it in or just going through the motions? Maybe there is something repressing about general company culture? Maybe we are scared at the high price of being brave and doing the things we must, and how that will look? Or maybe we are being held back by an unconscious sense of familiarity? Maybe we need a better challenge – after all, it is certainly possible for to make the sun shine in the dark.
I hope I have the energy to strive for above average when it matters – even when it seems like it doesn’t.
PS. ”The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” – Benjamin Mays
I was reading a Wired article with a discussion between Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson about their new books and how they relate to where ideas come from. The section below particularly caught my eye.
Kelly: I think there are a lot of ideas today that are ahead of their time. Human cloning, autopilot cars, patent-free law—all are close technically but too many steps ahead culturally. Innovating is about more than just having the idea yourself; you also have to bring everyone else to where your idea is. And that becomes really difficult if you’re too many steps ahead.
Johnson: The scientist Stuart Kauffman calls this the “adjacent possible.” At any given moment in evolution—of life, of natural systems, or of cultural systems—there’s a space of possibility that surrounds any current configuration of things. Change happens when you take that configuration and arrange it in a new way. But there are limits to how much you can change in a single move.
Kelly: Which is why the great inventions are usually those that take the smallest possible step to unleash the most change. That was the difference between Tim Berners-Lee’s successful HTML code and Ted Nelson’s abortive Xanadu project. Both tried to jump into the same general space—a networked hypertext—but Tim’s approach did it with a dumb half-step, while Ted’s earlier, more elegant design required that everyone take five steps all at once.
As a believer of things future (and yes, that does drive other people around me nuts – since I am still waiting for a flying car, everyone to stop using email, and for printers to be removed from offices) the thing that most struck me about this passage was that the best ideas will not get up on a regular basis and instead it is the best ideas that the culture can handle that do.
Does it mean we should only put out ideas which we think people will be able to handle? Not on my watch.
Does this mean we should give up on the grand ideas out there? I sincerely hope not.
Does it mean we should be less surprised when those grand ideas aren’t taken up? Hmmm…Probably.
Oh well…maybe we should just focus on finding a smaller group who are culturally ready for a bigger change…and re-set our expectations
PS. “With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed” – Abraham Lincoln