“Change” seems to be everyone’s favorite word these days. Senator Obama made it hip, and his Republican counterpart who tried to sell his experience is now jumping on the change bandwagon.
In the business world, selling change has always been part of the consultants’ sales mantra. Spenser Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese, became the book of change that managers all over bought so they, too, could share in the parable of the tiny mice and humanoids (Read the book!). And while it is the book that people most often quote as being inspiring, it is also the one that many people hate, simply because anybody can use it to forward their own agenda.
So how can you tell whether change is good or not?
First question is who’s calling for it, and who’s against it? If it benefits the one calling for it, you probably need to greet it with a grain of salt. So in politics, look who change benefits, and who gets hurt. In the case of 2008, you can argue that change favors the Democrats, but most people will probably agree that it also benefits the general populace.
Which brings us to the second point – is it change for change’s sake or a change for the better? The New Coke never worked because there was nothing wrong with the Old Coke. The US election system really sucks, but there doesn’t seem to be a better way, and it’s worked ok for the past 200 some years. The US election guarantees that every 4 (or 8) years, there’s a change at the top. It keeps one person from doing too much bad, and even if he were all that great, most people can’t be great for too long.
So you can argue that sometimes, change for change’s sake is good—keep getting new faces, new generation of leaders, fresh ideas—but that’s really saying that it makes things better.
Change is also bad for people who are in power, including business leaders. If the organization is stuck in a perennial stall or no growth mode, then the first place to look would be the individuals who got the company there. Sometimes, senior executives, board members, and recruiters focus on experience too much. If Mr. McCain can convince the conservative Republican party that a new face with practically no experience is fit to become VP of the nation, then certainly someone who is not in the current senior management ranks deserves a fair shake in the board room.
We make fun of the Chinese, the Japanese, and other Asian nations, or any nation with a long history of doing things as “antiquated.” Preservation of old customs could be the direct anti-thesis to the change philosophy that we in the West seem to believe is as sacred as holy water itself.
I write in my upcoming book Business Stories 101 (available on Kindle) that survival is the most important strategic goal for an organization, and that change is but a means to achieve that. We must understand “who we are” first before we chant “the change we need.”
If I were a lonely ranger watching the Colorado river flowing amid the rocky terrain of Arizona a million years ago (assuming humans were around then), it would have been a boring sight. But if I were Mother Earth, I could wait and witness the birth of the Grand Canyon. Change could be nothing but a buzz word for those who have no patience for things to work out, or for those who demand that they are more important than future generations.
But you would then argue that, if we don’t change our behavior now, Global Warming will consume us, and there will be no future generations.
I will agree with you, and tell you that the human race has simply made the choice to destroy itself. So maybe the most important thing isn’t change at all… it’s all about the choices that we make.