If you could change for the better, would you?


Between 1811 and 1816, a group of English Textile workers rebelled in Northwestern England, destroying the "new-fangled" labour saving machines that they believed threatened their jobs. The rebels were nicknamed "Luddites", and it took a significant deployment of military forces to put the rebellion down.

Now, in the first world, most of us would see that as backward and pointless behaviour - almost like trying to hold the tide back. Humans naturally invent new and better ways to do more with less, and we might as well embrace these opportunities to move forward.

Yet change is difficult because it involves breaking new ground in the depths of our brains. It is like hopping off a well-made 6 lane freeway, and to use an Australian term, "bush bashing" to create a new path where none existed before. It is hard, often slow, and non-intuitive work. It seems strange, kind of unnatural, and sometimes, it seems like the freeway might take us to the same destination more quickly - even though it will take us well out of our way first.

Many times we find ourselves defaulting back to the freeway because frankly, it takes less energy in the sense that while it might take us around the long way, it is something we can do on autopilot.

Let's do an experiment...

If you work in professional services, and I told you that there is a new technology that makes travel to a client (or travel for them to you) a thing of the past, and that allows documents to be legally signed online, what is your gut reaction?

If I told you that this technology would save you significant costs, and increase your billable time at the same time, what would your reaction be?

What if I told you that the research shows that with the popularisation of video-conferencing apps like Skype, clients only really value a face-to-face visit the first time, and after that, face-to-face meetings play no real part in their value equation when they are assessing whether or not to go with you or stay with you?

Or what if I told you that everybody was already using this technology, so if you want to keep up, you'd better jump on board?

At what point did you decide to find out more?

If it was at the introduction to the new technology, you are typically known as a "change initiator". You actively seek out change and you see the possibilities before they are even stated.

If it was at the paragraph where the benefits were stated, you are an "early adopter" sliding into the "early majority". You want to hear anecdotal evidence of the benefits.

If it was at the research paragraph you are part of the "late majority" - you really want to see if the wind has shifted for good before you dive in.

If it was at the "everybody is doing it" paragraph, you are a "laggard". You typically wait until a new business model has replaced the existing business model for a few years before you move across.

If you are sitting there saying to yourself "clients will never move onto this type of technology - nothing substitutes for being there in person in all client engagements", you are known as a skeptic. Ferment that skepticism with a pinch of economic downturn, add a dash of "violence against the machine", and you are officially a Luddite.

OK, That's Enough Of the Name Calling, What's Your Point?

One of the keys to navigating change is to not only understand your natural change setting, but why you hold that setting. Some people are born risk takers, while others are naturally more risk averse. Are these emotional settings or have they been created through hard life lessons?

Understanding the basis for the setting helps us to understand exactly what we need to know or learn before we make a change. Deliberately placing some rigour around this actually creates a degree of certainty for us because we have a specific yardstick to measure the proposed change against.

So if you want to navigate change more effectively, next time you are faced with a change, ask yourself this question: "What specific information would I need to know/learn to make this change?"

Then if that information becomes known to your satisfaction, jump in and make the change.

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