Do we really love change or do we treat it – as Kipling would say – as an impostor?
Learning to love and manage change effectively is critical for success but it’s not something we necessarily do that well. According to data from the Learning and Performance Capability Map only 37% of respondents felt able to measure their change management capability, resulting in just 8% of all respondents feeling they were at the highest level of competence – level 4 – and 18% of all respondents indicating they were at level 3 or 4 – which is a level of competence we would hope all managers and leaders would reach. Whichever way you look at it this isn’t great – change is everywhere, change is getting faster and because of this we need to learn to love, manage and cope with change – and if we can’t then we’ll be running headlong into a brick wall.
We live in a world that is forever changing – and the expectations are that it’ll get a whole lot faster! Not that long ago Twitter was something birds did – they certainly Tweeted – Skype was an insult and Google was a typo. My oh my, how times have changed.
The pace of business has never been so frenetic. New companies seem to spring up overnight and business is becoming more global than ever before. Products and services that were revolutionary two years ago are rendered obsolete if they don’t adapt to market changes fast enough. Companies that once led industries can become shadows of their former selves – such as Kodak – and industries that we once thought were permanently rooted because of their location, history and workforce – such as shipbuilding – have been transformed, albeit in a different place on the globe.
And if you’re thinking that this is just the standard ‘patter’ put about by business consultants trying to stir up a storm then think again. According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt every two days we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003 – that’s something like five exabytes of data.
Let me say that again in case you missed it: we now create as much information in two days as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.
Just think about this for a moment. Since the dawn of man we’ve had civilizations and changes that have transformed the planet. We’ve had the Egyptians and the pyramids, the Greeks with maths and philosophy, the Romans with roads; we’ve had the industrial revolution, we’ve had the information age and yet we’re creating more information in two days than we did in total before 2003.
I realise that right now much of this ‘information explosion’ is being driven by user-generated content such as pictures, instant messages, Facebook updates and Tweets, which are the daily bread of the social media scene, but the pace of change we’re all exposed to is massive.
According to Dr Martin Hilbert and his team at the University of Southern California research shows that everyone is bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data a day. Added to that, every day the average person produces six newspapers’ worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago – nearly a 200-fold increase. The growth in the internet, 24-hour television and mobile phones means that every day we now receive five times more information than we did in 1986.
But that’s just the always-on-24/7-social-media-twitterverse – isn’t it?
Most business leaders recognise that the pace of change in the world today is going up. It’s going up fast, and it’s affecting businesses in a massive way.
The evidence of this can be seen almost everywhere. Take the life-cycle of products, for example. Buy an iPhone today and you’ll expect to buy another in two years. That means taking one of the most advanced consumer products ever made and replacing it every two years. Tell that to your parents and they’ll think you’re mad – but that’s the way it is. Change or die seems to be the common mantra.
But it’s not just iPhones. According to the US Patent Office – who keep some great statistics – in 1963 there were 48,971 patents granted. By 2012 this had risen to 276,788.
Yet despite this enormous rise in innovation and change nothing in business is sacred and nothing – and I mean nothing in business – lasts forever any more.
Businesses, no matter how big or seemingly dominant in their chosen market, can fail or be taken over by others, but their deep-down aim is to keep going in one form or another, to survive and to sustain themselves. No company lasts forever – well, not so far anyway! In my research, I came across the little-known name of Kongo Gumi, a family owned Japanese temple builder that finally closed its doors to business in 2006. Remarkably, it had been in business for the previous 1,400 years! You see, nothing in business lasts forever.
Businesses realise that the pace of change brings great opportunities as well as major threats and this means that managing and reacting to change has become the source of distinct business advantage. As Charles Darwin brilliantly put it, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
So we have two options: we can stand still and succumb to whatever changes come our way or we can positively manage them for the benefit of our business.
But so what? Who really cares about change? Well, to be blunt the ability to plan and execute change well will be one of the real sought after skills of the future. Why? Well, because according to research by Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hockstra at The Ken Blanchard Companies the shocking fact is that 70 percent of all change initiatives fail. Put another way, the inability to change and change successfully will ultimately result in your extinction.
In a future post due xx.xx.2013 I’ll take a look at the reasons why so many changes fail and what you can start to do to make your changes a success.
The world is changing so fast that success is being determined more and more by our ability to change. We must learn to love and manage change effectively if we are to avoid extinction.
Call to action
Try this: Go back to what you were doing just five years ago. Make two columns on a piece of paper. On one side list all the changes that have taken place that were out of your control and on the other list all the changes that you had total control over. Now look at the two lists and consider – on a scale of one to five where five is high – the success of those changes.