I spent the beginning of this week out in Sterling, Virginia helping my friends (and business partners) implement a huge change to their brick and mortar business. It was a change that would be very disruptive to the client experience and any time that’s in play you’re going to hit some roadblocks. Not only were they going through a location change which provided a much different set up than their clients were used to but they were changing the way their product was being delivered. Chris and Todd knew that what they were doing was a big step forward for not only their business but also the very clients that had some initial pushback. So, being the great leaders that they are, they pushed forward knowing that they would get push back and risk losing business over the improvements.
Change is hard for everyone. Even when you know it’s a step forward or just getting rid of a routine that we don’t like so much.
Here’s a bit of a book report on a book which I serendipitously came across at the airport on my way back home yesterday. From the couple of chapters I got through on the plane, I highly recommend it. The beginning speaks to why change, even for the better, sometimes gets looked over.
We Depend On Past Decisions More Than We Like to Think
That dreaded time change that we recently experienced and can’t seem to get away from was implemented for good reason. It started during the first World War in an effort to conserve resources. Makes sense. But we are far past oil burning for a light source so maybe we can just not do this anymore, right? My toddlers sure ain’t down with it and my wife and I pay for it!
Here’s another example of the past influencing the present.
Nasa designed thrusters to a width of 2.5 x 4’8.5″.
You know what else is 4’8.5″? Two horse butts.
That’s right, folks! The ruts that Roman patrolling carriages left influenced the wagons that were built in later years. Those wagon specs influenced cars and railroad tracks that came years later. And how are those rocket thrusters transported from manufacturing to launch site? Railroad.
So, the most advanced technology of it’s time was influenced by the width of two horse butts. Crazy, right?
While the width of our traffic lanes and railway tracks don’t seem to cause too much of a nuisance to us, an out-dated time change sure does. The way you do things certainly can be for no other reason than “that’s what we’ve always done”. But that certainly doesn’t provide enough reason to block change if you see a better way to do things.
It’s easy to get caught in the rut of blindly traveling the path in front of us for reasons set far in the past. Avoid this by analyzing your processes and asking yourself why you are doing things that way. If there’s a better way to do it, take the leap!
Innovation Is Not Always Easily Recognized
Todd and Chris had a great idea and were eager to better their product. But great ideas aren’t always recognized right away. The efficacy and impact of a great idea sometimes depends on the grit and determination of the innovator.
A struggling musician was given the opportunity of a lifetime. One of the largest bands in the world offered him the opening gig on their world tour. This was his time to shine!
He went on stage at the first concert and ripped out his first few songs. Silence. The crowd did not cheer how he imagined they would when he unleashed his guitar riffs. Not a great start.
At the second show it got worse. Boos.
At the third show, he got booed before he even picked up his guitar. He wasn’t ready to give up though.
By the sixth show though, it got unbearable. The artist was fed up. He threw his guitar down, threw up a big middle finger to the crowd, and walked off stage. He quit the tour but he didn’t give up on his dream of being a musician.
That’s the story of how Jimi Hendrix started his career. The band he was opening for…. The Monkees. The Monkees were one of the biggest bands in the world at the time. As we look at it now, it makes sense that Jimi wasn’t well received by Monkees fans. There’s a pretty big leap between the band they came to see and some maniac whaling on a Fender Stratocaster. They were the first crowds to witness what would eventually become an advancement in music that would forever change the way the guitar was played. But, they just weren’t ready for it yet.
I hate to think of what the music industry would look like had Jimi just given up when things didn’t go well at first. How many bands would never come to fruition? Personally, I can’t imagine not having Band of Gypsies to listen to while enjoying a ride on my Harley. It’s the perfect accompaniment to twisting the throttle a little harder and ripping through a windy road!
Change, whether it is small or large, is difficult. It’s difficult for the person implementing it. It’s even harder for the people who are not privy to the thinking that spawned the process.
Here’s some steps to take to mitigate the pain of change and increase your chances of success:
- Analyze your current processes and constantly poke holes where you can. If the only reason you’re not moving forward with ideas is because it’s how it’s always been done, go for it.
- Make a plan for change. Map out a path from the point from inception to implementation and try to think of and address every road block you can think of.
- Be ready for pushback no matter how good your idea is. Communicate early and often to help people process what is going on and how the change is better for them. Be patient with detractors but also don’t be afraid to part ways with those that just don’t get it. If it’s a dandy of an idea, the right people will be eager to jump on board. The results will be that much better for it.
- Persist. Nothing worthwhile is going to be a cake-walk. You’re going to question yourself when people scoff at your idea but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. That includes people that are the “leaders” in our industry. The smartest of people are not immune to the mental traps that come with change. Trust yourself and push forward.
Being an innovator can be a lonely job. I hope that this helps a bit and lets you know that you’re not alone in your struggles with these efforts. Everyone feels it, even the geniuses we know today were once laughed at or even booed when they first brought their ideas to light. I can’t recommend Create the Future by Jeremy Gutsche enough. If the book doesn’t finish the job, talk through your ideas with trusted confidants. Gain support slowly. Be patient. You owe that much to yourself and the people that are depending on your expertise.