In life and in business, change is a constant. Some changes happen unexpectedly, others we can anticipate, and still others we enact ourselves. No matter what kind of change you're facing, if you have the right mindset, I believe you can leverage change to innovate and grow. Here are some thoughts I have on how to not only embrace change, but to use it to propel your team and your company forward:
- Let Go of Expectations: The writer William Faulkner once said about the writing process, "You have to learn to kill your darlings". Meaning: sometimes you have to completely reinvent or abandon an idea or approach that you are strongly attached to. It's easy to become personally invested in an idea. You may even feel like in that idea, there's a piece of yourself on the line. In letting go of our "darlings", we let go of that attachment, and in doing so, open ourselves up to a wealth of possibilities. More importantly, we don't hinge our success on one concept or assumption. By letting go of old ideas and expectations, you discover that each new idea presents a new opportunity to achieve your ultimate goals.
- Double Down: If something isn't working, it means one of two things... you need to eliminate it completely, or double down. Sometimes you need to just go further with something. As Sheryl Sandberg said, instead of leaving the table, lean in. We see an example of this in Microsoft. Microsoft wasn't focusing enough on new technology and innovation, so they doubled down. What emerged was the Hololens, which has created a new paradigm for virtual reality and information. If you're not seeing results, it's because your model is either flawed, or you're not putting enough energy into it. Either way, when you double down on it, you'll get clarity.
- Invest in an Adaptable Team: A key to leveraging change to your advantage is surrounding yourself with people who are not only adaptable to change, but thirsty for it. Some people associate change with loss, and will try to resist or even block change in your company. But the best people thrive in the midst of change. The famous psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth found in research on success that the greatest determining factor of success is "grit": or the ability to pick oneself up after a fall and be resilient. If you invest in people who are resilient, adaptable, and have grit, you will be equipped with a team that can thrive in times of uncertainty and change. After all, when nothing is certain, anything is possible.
- Keep Moving: Change creates movement. And movement can lead to new ideas, discoveries and opportunities. Newton's first law informs us that a moving object is likely to keep moving; an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon. So, if you want to make things happen and truly innovate....keep moving. When companies stop progressing, they become irrelevant and worse, extinct. If you keep moving towards your end goal, new solutions and opportunities will present themselves.
- Flow, Don't Harden: When change is happening, you might feel the natural instinct to tighten up, harden, and put up your guard. But change is best navigated with a more fluid approach. We see this in nature. If you are rafting down a river, it's easier to navigate a turbulent current when you're moving with it, not against it. Flow has a stealthy kind of power: it gives you strength through momentum, and will always outpower brute force. That's why the momentum and fluidity of water will always erode rock. And for good reason... agility has it's rewards. We saw this in the tech industry with mobile: the companies that were able to flow with the rise of mobile reaped the benefits of a mobile-first market. Those who resisted, were ultimately eroded by it. Be like water, not like rock. Flow, don't harden.
- Keep Your End Goal in Mind: When you have a positive goal, it's like finding your North Star. It will direct you to the right path or course of action no matter what the present circumstance is. That's why it's important to keep your eye on your star. In transitional periods, it will feel more comfortable to retract back to old habits and strategies you've always relied on. But instead of grasping onto old ways of thinking, hold true to your vision. That's why I always make a habit of writing my strategic goals for our company on a piece of paper, and keeping that in my pocket. Carrying that paper with me day after day has deteriorated it and worn it down to practical shreds, but what it symbolizes stays in tact: the end goal. Even through periods of turbulence, the principles and goals written on it guide me like a North Star.
As business leaders, we embrace risk every day, so change is our prerogative. Risk means change and lots of it. But whether you're a startup or a business magnate, change presents a unique opportunity. Ultimately, change gives us all the chance to lead. And if we allow ourselves to embrace change, we can become agents of change ourselves. As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I can't think of a better North Star.