To Exist Is to Change

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

-- Henri Bergson

Tomorrow is today. If we or our organization are waiting for things to get better, we're missing the point: It's up to us to make things better now.

In some cases, it is natural mortality, as the product or service is no longer needed, but the secret reason rarely mentioned is the reluctance or inability to adapt to change. Why? What's so bad about change?

Change is the key factor in achieving personal and/or organizational goals. Without change there can be no progress.

Innovation is the vital ingredient in the individual or institution's ability to make effective and practical use of change. It is the great "what if" factor in decision-making, and the entity's raison d'etre to move forward and stay abreast of the turbulent and constantly changing times.

Sustainability is the manifestation of health and growth, but also diversity: Indeed, it is made up in large part of change and innovation.

This trinity of objectives for meaningful economic, institutional and social progress represents the most sought-after attributes of individuals and organizations.

Transformation is driven by an acknowledged need to grow and change, followed by thinking differently about the old ways and means.

We can loosely define transformation as:

- Human nature is driven by wants and/or needs.

- We develop strategies to turn those wants and needs into goals.

- With strategies in place, we can formulate a plan, or call to action to achieve the goals.

- The plan, or call to action, involves setting personal or business objectives and determining the most appropriate approach with which to implement them.

- Transformation occurs when the individual or organization has successfully embarked upon the new course to achieve its goals.

Those completing this process are now positioned not just to survive, but to progress and thrive. The process is repeatable -- in fact, it loops -- continually transforming actions into creative, innovative and sustainable goals and outcomes.

Technology proliferates at a tremendous rate, leveling playing fields in business, politics, medicine and nearly every endeavor it touches. It may be a smartphone app, solar and wind energy, hybrid and electric autos, social media, cloud computing or an innovative, new Web 2.0 app.

Here are a few examples:

Borders, once considered a competitor in the retail book market, recently went bankrupt -- not only in cash but innovation. Borders failed to take charge of its Internet presence and annoyed customers with long lines and high prices. It lost the in-store Starbucks franchise to Barnes & Noble. It didn't enter the market for e-readers. In short, Borders never changed, and for that it paid the ultimate price.

KickStart sells an irrigation pump to African farmers, which lifts water uphill into fields. It has enabled them to increase their yield and their income tenfold, from $110 to $1,100 a year.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks found an unintended consequence of transforming his company in 2008: instant coffee. At first poo-poohed, Schultz learned the market was $20 billion, and so brought VIA to market to compete against old, tasteless offerings. In its first year, it sold $180 billion and became fifth most popular brand in its market.

The success of an organization is often driven by its ability to recognize significant challenges and immediately identify the strategic imperatives necessary to address them. While nothing new, accomplishing such goals in today's global climate requires new, organizational thinking, creating and sharing new kinds of business knowledge, understanding and applying emerging socio-economic models.

Transformative events of all kinds are occurring hundreds, thousands, of times a day across the world. The application of an appropriate technology jumpstarts transformation, opening the portal to creative and innovative use of enabling technologies. Transformation, and enabling technologies in an endless loop, sustain ever more creativity and innovation.

The notion that organizations must continually renew themselves has appeared in management literature, with increasing frequency, since economist Joseph Schumpeter introduced the term "creative destruction" in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.

Schumpeter noted that every industry advances on technological progress -- farming, manufacturing, power and transportation -- and organizational innovation. The old ways are destroyed incessantly and new ways given life. Economists, he wrote -- and this should apply to business executives, as well -- have traditionally focused on price and quality when thinking about competition, but such variables give an incomplete picture. On this, he wrote:

In capitalist reality, as distinguished from its textbook picture, it is not that kind of competition which counts, but the competition from the new commodity, the new technology, the new source of supply, the new type of organization...competition which commands a decisive cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms but at their foundations and their very lives.

Now, many decades after Schumpeter wrote those words, we constantly find ourselves in this exact situation. Competition over price is competition in commodities. The new thing, which we cannot see, will come along and make our commodity passé--and then we must compete with this intruder.

When mandated by leadership behavior and coupled with cross-collaborative and cross-functional processes, an organization can better position itself to take advantage of today's -- and tomorrow's -- opportunities.


Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies. Author of several books, his newest book is "Everything Connects - How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability" (McGraw Hill, Spring 2014). Copyright (c) 2014 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.