This week I was talking to a client about adapting to the changing business environment and the view, along with many others, is that we are in unprecedented times of change, and this is a common theme being expressed by many.
The Romans and the Greeks (stay with me here); believed the world was in decline, and that change, far from being a constructive force in the world, was in fact a negative race to chaos and ruin. Their focus was on a stable society, and with this, had a continuous requirement of food, and general security across its populous and wider society. People seldom travelled, so news and communication were slow. Travel was mainly kept to troops returning from foreign lands and by the end of the 2nd century, the Romans were at war internally with the Antoine plague-pandemic. The disparity between the rich and the poor had grown to such an extent, that the focus on change became inevitable.
Change today is strongly associated with evolution and progress, social media and online news cycles are constant, and communication is immediate. Aviation travel has enabled us to get to any part of the globe within hours, rather than days and weeks. There is a belief that all change is a positive construct, and as such, it should be embraced by the modern day citizen as a duty and certain social behaviours must be displayed. Of course, we would argue that we have far reaching freedoms now, that are built on friendships and connections with that wider community.
Change for change sake, when people do not see change as beneficial; perhaps even painful, tends to focus people and organisations to question the change itself.
Our questions tend to narrow to the personal, and focus around whether that change will offer a deeply meaningful or worthwhile change to them personally. The implementers of change, are quick to understand the term “the valley of death”.
Why would we change as people and or, change the direction of our business. The world we now live in, where technology shifts are so rapid; and where market forces demand certain business models to be implemented, we either accept them and grow, or apply change differently.
Personally and as business owners, we can find ourselves setting a high value, on making significant changes in our lives. Our expectations are, if we keep making those significant changes, then the outcomes will be positive. That positive bias can sometimes lead to an error being made, that can hide many unforeseen outcomes and or consequences at both a personal level and within the business. These consequences may also cause a deep level of inertia and inhibit our ability to move forward and make decisions. This truth can be amplified, if the expectation for change has a link to a secondary perceived benefit; such as the state of happiness and you continue to be miserable after the change. Beliefs such as “it would be different if I was retired’, or “it would be totally different if I had X or Y” should recognise our own bias for actions that we need to evaluate, as actually doing nothing, is fine and can be a strategy for change.
Driving forward in the business world and taking action is imperative, where the narrative seems to say, focus on creating disruption and new things and where entrepreneurs and business leaders only consider looking forward, investing in opportunities that are scaleable and where history, is often forgotten.
Confucius said simply, “Study the past if you would define the future”.
Clearly, where tell tale signs are considered; and where age old problems remain; we can often forget that simple new approaches could work but are often overlooked. We can often believe, that in the new world of disruption and change, we should reinvent the wheel; yet the wheel itself, is still one of the most defining inventions and moments in man’s evolution.
Our desire for quick decisions, perhaps forges a perceptual position, where change is viewed as a binary decision. A double edge sword, on the one side of the blade lies the concept, that “all my problems are solved with change”. The other side of the metaphoric sword is, “why bother, nothing ever changes”. This obviously excludes the tip of the sword, which perhaps is the true intent of the person wielding it. When this intention is directed towards ideas and ideals that cause a deep level of personal meaning, that align your own personal and business values, then change has now become singular. It is your internal focus on these values and virtues that seem to drive substantively more change, irrespective of the external world. It can change a perspective, that can be valuable and really effective to you.
Natural flow through life
As with water rolling over pebbles on the beach; over time, the water can cut through hardened stone, similarly to the tiny imperceptible actions you take every moment, that cause the greatest changes to you and your business.
It is these moments that we can simply miss, as it can be counter-intuitive, when it comes to creating change. Part of that ebb and flow is the recognition that tiny things do matter. The acceptance is, that change is an inevitable part of nature’s cycle and as such, we are part of that rhythm. The gradual changes, from when you were five years old, through to now, may appear obvious, yet those obvious changes, perhaps weren’t recognisable, between five and six or six and seven. However, they were happening and were important chapters, in your personal story.
In these unprecedented times of change, the Roman and Greek philosophers should have the final say “Change versus permanence”. Forgive my poetic licence and my modern day manipulation of historic facts ,but we need to accept that the world, our universe, is in a continuous cycle of change and to some, that speed of change is at times, terrifying. It is said, that in our ignorance, we can find either bliss or wisdom. If we cannot find and apply an understanding of the external and natural changes that are likely to impact you, and or your business, then challenging and possibly painful change might ensue.
You are, one could argue, the permanency in all change whilst you exist. It is of course, you and I that decide the meaning of events and judge them. Our thoughts are perhaps, the tiny little elements or sensory experience, that we generalise as change into our own seamless reality.
According to Socrates, change is about “living a satisfactory life”. Perhaps it is this, rather than our grandiose ideas, that we should strive to lead. It is for us as individuals, to understand our purpose, a focus on something greater than ourselves, and question where we fit into the wider eco system. It is of course for us to mesh our expectations, our ideals and values together, to support beneficial change for us and those around us.
Our habits and our reflections over time, as with history, will show us the signs and what we should learn from these signs. We must recognise the trends and patterns, build our capabilities and mental processes that support our working model for change. It is then our ability to find the ebb and flow, a balance in our operating rhythm, that perhaps, keeps us permanently going forward on the path to a satisfactory life.
In these unprecedented times of change, it is as important to ask “What should remain the same, and what should not change?”
Written by Nick Savastano, Founder, Beyond Thinking Limited
International Coach and Mentor