by Andi Simon, author of “On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights“
Are you an entrepreneur? A start-up business looking for growth? Someone who just sees things with fresh eyes and you want to build a business around it?
If so, you are among the many millions of people each year that want to start and grow a new business solving big, or little, problems with innovations and creative solutions. You of all people should be open to the new, the unknown, the fearful risks ahead. Yet, I bet you are a great idea person who is still afraid of change!
Why is change so scary? What can you do about it?
Remember humans have evolved slowly over millions of years, adapting to changes in their environment or to their genetic makeup. As Darwin is attributed to say, “It isn’t the strongest or smartest that survive, it is the most adaptive.” If we have been doing this forever, why is it so hard to adapt?
More importantly, we have evolved because we tried new things, shared what we learned with each other and sustained change through each generation. Often, we even bartered our idea in different foreign locations with people who had different ideas from ours.
Is change really that scary?
Let’s agree that we are most happy when we feel three things:
1. We know what we know.
As Charles Duhigg writes about in his book “The Power of Habit“, we know what we are doing and the habits take over and help us get through our days, at work or at home, playing games or visiting family. Those scripts that we learned early in our personal growth stood us well in the past. We rely on them each day as we move forward. Why change? More important for some people are the cues, routines and rewards associated with those habits. They are very powerful. Even when you know intellectually that you have to change, the habit takes over and you abort your openness to change.
2. We have a clear role to play with others.
We really like feeling important, special and appreciated among others. Humans are herd animals and we gravitate to others who seem to share similar values, beliefs and act like we do or expect them to. This culture that we flock to — remember that “birds of a feather” flock together — is rather comfortable and comforting. We don’t have to work too hard to know how to grab lunch and share stories with colleagues or get our jobs done.
3. The risk is greater than the perceived rewards.
What if we don’t know what is expected of us? How will we know if we are changing in the right way? We sort of know what has worked in the past, right? Why should we scrap that to adopt something new? As we write in our book,”On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights“, our seven case studies were about great leaders in wonderful businesses who were unwilling to step into the unknown to sustain their business growth. The fear of failure was greater than the pain of staying the same – until they had a crisis and had to change.
But, as Bob Dylan sang to us, “The Times They Are A’ Changing” and so must we.
The challenge for people today is the speed of change.
There is hope. Here are some things to consider as you try to manage your organization, and yourself, through this change accelerator.
You turn “Change is Scary” into “Change is Fun!”
Why not? Perception is reality and once you have a mental map of something in your head you see the world as if it is conforming to that perceptual map. You only see what fits it. But, as Einstein wrote, we need to change what we are thinking if we are going to change what we are doing.
This is never easy but the brain is very plastic and you mind has a map of reality in there that can learn new things and see in new ways. You just have to help it. As you begin your “change is fun” journey, start by literally making this “undesirable stuff you must embrace” into “great new stuff you love or desire.” Funny, but once you make the undesirable desirable everyone’s mind begins to see the possibilities rather than the risks.
No turning back.
One thing is certain. The times are indeed changing. Scary or not, only the most adaptive are going to thrive. Help you and your team see change as a “big new adventure” where you help them gain the skills and confidence to thrive. You will all smile a lot and share the journey.
Andi Simon, author of “On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights“, is a corporate anthropologist and award-winning author. She is the founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants, designed over a decade ago to help companies use the tools of anthropology to better adapt to changing times. Simon also is a public speaker and an Innovation Games facilitator and trainer.