Most people would agree that people don't like change. I would disagree, let's face it, babies cry until you change them. We take vacations because we want and need a change. However, we all know there is a dark side to change, the type we don't like. In order to turn change into an advantage, it's important to understand how to turn the negative side of change to a positive.
By creating a working culture that understands change and how it can be used, you will create personal, professional and organizational advantage. You can thrive in this world of increasing, dynamic change.
The Dark Side of Change
The type of change we don't like is the change we didn't see coming and it impacts us personally. When change comes to us from the outside in, it surprises us and we then react to it. That's why so many companies are teaching employees how to become agile, so we can react faster. What is interesting to note is that most changes are there to see before they impact us. For example, when do people get burglar alarms? After getting robbed. Once you learn how to see the change coming before it impacts you, you have time to turn it into an advantage.
Understand The Dynamics of Change
In order to prepare employees for embracing change, you and your company need to understand the types of change, how to see them, and how to influence their impact. To this end, I have divided change into three simple elements, which I find effective in helping both individuals and organizations turn change into advantage.
The first is embodied by the concept of cyclical change. You're in the midst of cyclical change every day: weather cycles, biological cycles, and business cycles. There are over three hundred known cycles that give you a window into the future, and once you look for cyclical change, you will see that cycles are everywhere; you just have to be aware of them.
The second type of change can be viewed as linear change. This is a one-way movement of change versus a repeating cycle. Once this type of change hits, you're never going back to the old way. For example, once you get a smartphone you're never going back to a dumb phone. It's one-way change that provides you with many predictable opportunities as well as consequences.
The third type of change happens when a linear, one-way change is accelerated to an exponential level. Because exponential change is about doubling - two becomes four becomes eight - it starts out slow and then rapidly picks up speed. Advances in what I refer to as the three digital accelerators: the exponential change in processing power, digital storage and bandwidth, are changing our world on us at an ever increasing, predictable rate.
When you look around and determine what cycles you experience in your business, as well as what linear and exponential changes have been happening, and then look out from there, you can turn these predictable changes into advantages.
Instilling Confidence Through Certainty
It's not enough to use these three types of change to better anticipate the future -- you need to create a work environment that is ready to act upon your forecasts. To get employees at all levels to embrace the changes that will impact them and influence their future, you have to instill confidence by providing certainty.
We live in an uncertain world, but it's certainty that provides the confidence to make bold moves. Certainties can be identified by separating what I call hard trends, trends that will happen, from soft trends, trends that might happen. A hard trend is a projection based on measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts. A soft trend is a trend that "might" happen and that means you can change or influence a soft trend. Thus, both have the power to shape the future.
For example, saying that Baby Boomers will age is a hard trend -- it will happen; it's a Future Fact. But saying because over the past ten years fewer people have been becoming doctors means there won't be enough doctors to treat aging Baby Boomers is a soft trend -- it's something we can choose to address or ignore; it's a future maybe. Being able to tell the difference between the two will enable your organization to transform its culture into one that profits from change, uncertainty, and burgeoning trends.
With a workforce actively and confidently sorting changes into the three types and then identifying them as hard and soft trends, your team will have the confidence to drive change from the outside in.
To this end, it's also a good practice to let your employees know one more certainty: that their roles will change over the next five years. Tell them, "The people you report to can define what your new role is, but it would be better if you dictated your new role based on hard trends that are shaping your industry. You can either allow yourself to become less relevant or even obsolete, or you can see where your career is going and get the training and tools you need to become increasingly more relevant and thus thrive."
A Workplace Of Change
Finally, realize that how you view the future shapes how you act today. And how you act today shapes your future. Therefore, your Futureview will determine the future you. What is the Futureview of your employees, business partners, and customers? When you manage the Futureview and elevate it based on the hard trends and the certainties that are before you, your employees will actually embrace the changes before them. Remember, the good old days are not behind us. They're ahead of us when we understand how to use change to our advantage.
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