Business Transformation Demands Change for Lasting Success

We cannot be creative and achieve significant transformation without embracing change.
Humans are creatures of habit. We search for and embrace the familiar. It is critical that we derive meaning and order from our lives. Why else would we sit in the same seats in school, take the same path to work each and every day, buy the same brands when so many options face us
“Change is the only constant.” Heraclitus, Greek philosopher
However, we evolved/adapted as a species because it is literally embedded in our DNA. Nature demands that we change. Nature gravitates toward perpetual disorder. In science the term for a gradual decline into disorder is called “entropy.”
“Change and conflict are the only real constants.” David Packard, HP Co-founder.
We are MOST successful when we embrace chaos and pursue change. Darwin wrote of this as survival of the fittest. Humans therefore straddle two worlds, one in which we demand order and the other in which we thrive on change. It is in our best interest that we aggressively pursue the unfamiliar. Humans are a direct result/product of the ability to evolve and adapt. Because people avoid uncertainty/ unpredictability we DEMAND new stimulus (disconfirming forces) to break our equilibrium.
In the IBM business culture of the 1950s, it was the goal of American workers to find and keep gainful employment with the goal of remaining in one single organization until they retired. doesn’t this sound almost “quaint” given the average American will change jobs 10 times by the time they reach 35 years of age these days. Today’s job search requires a one to two year search to perhaps land a temporary contract gig of a few months. This has become our “NEW normal.”
A critical question that affects each and every one of us is: “What is the future of human adaptation?” How will YOU adapt in your career, your business, your life? Our species achieves truly amazing things when we set out to willingly and aggressively embrace change. Consider: we are close to solving the human gene sequencing project, and have achieved tremendous advancements in the areas of artificial intelligence, advances in technology, super-computing, mapping the human brain and neural networks, and robotics. We have explored space and the human brain.
Business transformation is an extremely hot topic these days, given the unrelenting pressure business leaders face from intense global competition, rapidly evolving technologies, the pervasive 24-7-365 Internet and 24-hour news cycle. The ubiquity of social media with its concurrent global trend towards user-generated content as a means of counter-balancing (usurping???) the power of the media as the Fourth Estate affects each and every organization’s to build and maintain compelling brands.
Change is our NEW NORMAL given constantly changing regulatory landscapes, nations being torn apart by internal strife between ruling classes, religions, social classes and a constant shifting in lowest cost labor markets, as industry seeks out the cheapest talent pools of highly educated and well-trained contract-based workers. How businesses and business owners adapt dictate how successful their organizations are…and ARE NOT. Global multinational corporations once deemed too big to fail are doing so with much greater frequency (Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Borders, Circuit City, etc.)
We all have a fearful, almost pathological fear of change. To help others to implement change, you as a leader must first help others to manage their fear of change before you can implement change. Kurt Lewin studied the human behavior of change avoidance back in the 1950s. “For any type of social management, it is of great practical importance that levels of quasi-stationary equilibria can be changed in two ways: by adding forces in the desired direction, or by diminishing opposing forces.” – Kurt Lewin in “Human Relations in Curriculum Change.” Sourced from
John Kotter developed an EIGHT step process for business owners, leaders, and professionals that are tasked with implementing change within their organizations. Two researchers (W. Warner Burke and George Litwin) developed a critically important change model that you as a business owner/leader can follow for understanding how to implement change within your organization.
Check out this fascinating article on the overwhelming task that Louis Gerstner faced in changing the culture at IBM in the early 1990s from computer maker to global consulting firm. Here’s a brief video of Lou Gerstner being interviewed on the same topic.
So what will it be? Run from change as a Pavlovian response to uncertainty or accept it as a given and embrace it as a means of achieving true lasting competitive advantage. Failure to act is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
Here’s to your continued success as we head into the holidays and plan for a GREAT 2013!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach