Keep Your Mind Open


Keep Your Mind Open

How do you gain an advantage when conditions are constantly changing?

Jim Thomas

We live in a time of constant change, the experts tell us. Publishers and consumers alike love this topic, judging from recent successful titles such as Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard; Leading Change; Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change; Turn the Ship Around!, Immunity to Change and The Innovator’s Dilemma, just to name some. How can publishers print so many books on the subject of change? Because things are always changing.

The changing landscape of changing conditions

We find that change comes in more than one flavor. It can be occasional or continuous; incremental or disruptive. At times, proponents of one kind of change find themselves at odds with others. Recently, in The New Yorker, Harvard Prof. Jill Lepore took issue with the ability of Harvard Prof. Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation to explain complex change. “Disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. It’s not more than that. It doesn’t explain change,” she writes. Ouch.

Prof. Christensen provided somewhat of a rebuttal in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and if you don’t have the time to read these, contributor Trish Gorman weighs in to tell us “how it really works”: “With the right mix of vision, passion, ideas and expertise, you and your team can better harness your disruptive tendencies for successful innovation,” she writes. It’s not only a sensible message, it provides buzzword addicts with their daily fix.

Two types of change

From another perspective, two types of change exist: those that we participate in creating and those that, to one degree or another, are forced upon us. Typically, we view examples of the latter as negative: traffic detours, increases in bank fees and laws enacted by the opposing political party.

We usually view the former, the changes we help create, as positive: implementing efficiencies in work-flow, developing a new marketing campaign and planning a home improvement project (vs. home repair). Note the differences in the attitude between practices that made the decision to invest in EHR, vs. those who had EHR “forced on them” by the government.

What’s the message? To create positive change, invite those who will be affected by the change into the decision-making process. It’s the first step no organization can afford to ignore. OM