by Dan Woychick
The phones don’t work, the printer is acting squirrely, and I’ve misplaced the network cables my IT guy needs. No matter how well planned, no matter how hard we might try to get work done, there is no less productive environment than an office on the day after moving.
This morning I arrived at my new office fully expecting a headache or two, and I haven’t been disappointed. Change is all around – in the sights, the sounds, and in every freshly painted corner of the new space.
But what happens on all those other ordinary days? What happens when we aren’t prepared for change, or worse, when we don’t recognize it?
Slow to adapt
In 1872, William Rand and Andrew McNally printed their very first map for the Railroad Guide. Over the years they were innovators, adapting to new printing technologies and the growing popularity of the automobile, until Rand McNally was nearly synonymous with mapmaking. Then, in 2005, Google Maps launched.
Eastman Kodak, the film pioneer whose distinctive yellow box was present at family gatherings for over a century, recently declared bankruptcy. Even after decades as a consumer icon, and despite Paul Simon pleading “don’t take my Kodachrome away,” Kodak mistakenly believed it was in the photo business – not the memory business.
But make no mistake. This is not just a story about deflated, old school companies – pity the poor dinosaurs. Until early 2008, Myspace was the most visited social network in the world. By the end of last year, it no longer ranked in the top 100.
Risk and reward
My eight-year-old son is notorious for clinging to the familiar. He had a favorite pair of flannel pajamas that began as pants, gradually becoming threadbare clam diggers as he grew. Once, when he discovered we were painting our cabin a new color, he cried – literally – “but it’s been this way my whole life!”
Most people are resistant to change. But can you blame them? We are conditioned from an early age to do the right thing. Any teacher has undoubtedly been asked by a student, “What do I have to do to get an ‘A’?” And countless meeting debates have ended with the phrase, “But we’ve always done it that way.”
There is generally not enough incentive to offset the risk of standing out. If we are supposed to learn from our mistakes, how is it that we ever learn anything? Mistakes are barely tolerated and often held up to ridicule.
Changing the game
If every day felt like moving day, anxious workers would be scrambling to make sense of our chaotic mess of a world. In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s the world we live in.
Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction. – Pablo Picasso
Our problems are too complex and too abundant to rely only on traditional methods.
We need more people and institutions prepared to be disruptive.
The KaosPilots is an alternative business school located in Denmark that aims to attract and train social entrepreneurs and creative leaders. There are no subjects or classes and schoolwork is highly collaborative and experiential.
Peter Thiel, a cofounder of PayPal, awarded 24 students each a $100,000 fellowship not to attend college for two years. Instead, the winners are to work with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to develop business ideas in areas such as biotechnology, education, and energy.
There are always more possibilities than you think. Computers may be binary, but human beings are not. Once we embrace the constant change around us – every day is moving day – and encourage alternative methods of thinking and learning, we will be better equipped to thrive.
And over time, that new space – that new way – just might start feeling comfortable. That’s when you know it’s time to move again.