Does Change Happen to You or with You?

November 24, 2011


When you build a successful company, department, NGO, or team, you build upon successes. It’s tricky to reproduce success, however, because many decisions were both context- and time-bound. Had you made those same decisions with different people, in different circumstances, or at another time period in the growth of your organization, you may not have had the same degree of success. You might have failed miserably. Think about being the engineer who came up with the zero-emissions car before our culture was ready for it. By contrast, the  Hummer’s creators timed it just right and enjoyed surprising commercial success.

Never fully trust your successful decisions or fully reject ones that failed. If you allow yourself to believe the hype and headlines–“Serial Entrepreneur Starts Another Successful Venture”–you may not be prepared to listen to other opinions as often or as deeply. People in your organization may start to say, “We don’t do that here” or “We tried that before.” The innovators and adapters may get tired of hearing “No” and either stop proposing ideas or leave the organization.

If you’re not constantly adapting, change will happen to you, not with you. Prepare for change by being willing to change anything–no matter how much success you’ve enjoyed.

What can Darwin teach you about organizational life?

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