Recently, I have been thinking about how we "shed" the old to make room from the new in our lives, organizations and society. I have also been thinking about why we might block, resist or neglect change when we know it is necessary and essential. If we know what doesn't change or grow is dying, why do we resist change?
Beyond the philosophical or conceptual ideas outlined above, why is change even necessary? For starters, we are living in a world struggling with complex global challenges - income inequality, media misinformation, climate change, resource volatility, labour market imbalances, radical social transformation, and aging populations to name but a few. Clearly, the society building tools and approaches we have been using to date have not led us easily to the solutions to these important challenges.
Additionally, our work lives are changing so rapidly that how we think is becoming increasingly more important than what we think as we move towards a future in which we will be doing jobs that do not yet exist using tools that also do not yet exist. And while many of us think this will be the next generation's challenge, futurists like Thomas Frey have predicted that in a mere 13 years, by 2030, 2 billion current jobs will no longer exist.
One thinker who has been tackling the challenge of change is Clayton Christensen, whose book Innovator's Dilemma is often credited with launching the concept of disruptive innovation - understanding how the introduction of a new idea or technology can disrupt and displace organizations, jobs, markets and society in general. Essentially, how we can actively shed the old to make room for the new.
Christensen's theories have had a profound effect on business strategy all around the world. He clearly demonstrates how organizations that do not adapt will surely perish or diminish. Often I hear people personally and professionally moving back and forth between avoiding or embracing change. While avoiding change is an understandable response, we know that what does not change or grow eventually dies.
So, how can we effectively embrace change in our work and lives?
One way to embrace change is to view our actions, identity and activity as a constantly evolving creative act, cycle or process. This would be a process in which a new idea, insight or approach emerges, is embraced by some and naturally meets resistance from what is or was the status quo. The resistance is part of the process as most individuals, organizations and societies have a difficult time letting go of "what has always been done". The change process can and will stall if this resistance is not followed by a softening of the status quo and a willingness to test or experiment with the new idea. This experimentation between new and old creates a surprising interplay that leads to new learning and awareness. This new learning and awareness then comes together to form a new status quo and then the cycle of creative renewal repeats.
Shedding the comfort that comes with "what has always been done" is an essential key to this process of growth and renewal. In an organization's or society's leadership there must be a willingness and a strong desire to soften the status quo or to be open to ridding ourselves of the ideas, processes or approaches that no longer serve or that need to adapt, even if these very approaches may have been the keys to or the defining features of yesterday.
If we hold rigidly to yesterday's solutions, we cannot improve, grow and live for today's problems, challenges and opportunities. We must be open to "shedding" our past in order for the present and the future to have its healthiest and most unencumbered chance. Consider shedding your resistance to change. A bigger, better, brighter world awaits.