“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” – Bertrand Russell
It’s a huge understatement to say that one of the biggest challenges we face as leaders is attempting to make change in our organizations. We all know change is hard. I would guess that half or more of the posts in this space over the past decade specifically address that topic.
I was reminded this week, though, that while making change can be extremely difficult, sometimes thinking change can be even tougher. Doing something different that we know we should do can push us to our limits, but at least in that case we know what we should do. What if we never really get to that point? What if we never really get to the point of identifying the changes we need to make?
Very often, our own worst enemies are our past successes. When things have worked in the past it can be extremely difficult to convince ourselves that those same things won’t necessarily work in the future. Our brains just don’t want to switch tracks when the one we’re on used to be so good.
Some organizations just physically cannot get their minds to think outside the parameters of where they’ve been previously. They’re just trapped. It’s almost as though they can only see the “good old days”, and no matter how much the world has changed, all they can do is try and recreate a past that no longer exists (and will never exist again).
Of course I’m not suggesting that all organizations need to attempt to make transformational change every few months. I’m just suggesting that all organizations need to be regularly challenging how they think. All organizations need to intentionally push themselves outside of their mental comfort zones.
Simple example: A number of years ago, I spent a day with a leadership team of business that had been around for decades and had changed very little over that time. The entire day was spent answering one question: If we were legally required to double in size over the next 5 years, how would we do it?
The result was one of the best sessions I’ve ever been part of. It was pretty quiet at first, but as people started to think beyond how they’d been doing things for the past years, new ideas start coming out about customers, production, delivery, staffing, technology – pretty much every area of the business. They completely reimagined how the business might look.
Did they implement all that stuff? Of course not, and that wasn’t the point. But it forced them to think about the possibility of being very different, and it changed how they thought about themselves and their environment, and in the years since, the organization has changed tremendously.
Are you pushing yourself and your team to think change? Or are you just trying to repackage a worn out version of your organization that’s no longer relevant?