Remember the time you were fooling around the house or explored the world together with your friends? Remember the time when you were only limited by your physical capabilities to grab the much-desired sweets on the shelf above? Maybe you recall that just a bit or maybe not at all. Or maybe you already have kids and you probably just told them the third time in a row not to chew on that pencil while simultaneously placing their hand on the hotplate you just turned on. But what does all that have to do with business or the fear of change?
When we were toddlers, we simply explored a yet unknown world. No matter what it took — we just had to climb that tree. But when we entered school, and throughout our social circles, we learned what is acceptable in our culture and what not. In other words, we accepted to stay on the ground instead of climbing trees. We developed certain ideas and perceptions of life and work that slowly became binding habits. Doing so is important because it is part of conducting business in a sustainable manner and also teaches us how to behave in different situations. Yet, because our internal and external processes turn into a routine, we often do things without exploring them; we just do as we are told.
Because we do things the way somebody ordered us to do them, is one reason we are afraid of change. What happens if I do things a little different than my boss expected me to do them? Some employees might even be afraid of losing their job or not getting their desired promotion when they deviate from the norm. In general, the human brain likes matters that it can calculate and knows the outcome of. If we are uncertain about the outcome of a situation, we will be stressed. Yet, the world does not remain the same. In fact, it changes faster and more radical than ever. Thus, one of the most valuable routines in times of uncertainty is the routine of adaptability. Try to understand your hesitation and get comfortable with new experiences.
By the way — there is a term that describes the fear of change: Metathesiophobia. To be honest, we haven’t found out yet how to pronounce this word properly. But it’s Latin, which sounds clever. Did you know that there is also a phobia called Anatidaephobia? This term describes the (irrational) deep fear of being permanently watched by a duck. We don’t know what to make out of this. Except Peking duck.
Change, Adapt and Overcome.
Back to business. Change should be embraced and be a part of every healthy company culture. Captain Obvious sends his regards. But did someone ever tell you how?
Give your employees room to explore and trust them, instead of being afraid that they cannot handle freedom. Create a system that enables the emergence of new habits by implementing specific design principles like information transparency, an open feedback culture or the collective distribution of responsibilities. Doing this, your employees will not reinvent the wheel or turn your company into a circus on the other hand. It will empower them to not just live with the change concept of someone else, but to create their own ideas.
Furthermore, change means to examine ourselves critically. We like to agree with our own opinion and seek out people who share that opinion. But how many of us are seriously trying to understand a differing opinion and critically look at their own opinion to see the advantages and flaws in both opinions? This might serve as an example of a business process as well. It is important that a process works and people execute it reliably. Yet, it is just as important that you know about the weakness of that particular process and keeps it flexible, so it can be altered to suit particular situations or improves in general.
Instead of being afraid of change, we should think about how to use our childlike curiosity to create new opportunities for long-term success. This does not mean to change any- and everything, but just we like go through different phases in life, there are times when a change can seriously improve a matter. Sometimes, we do not know if a change will yield the desired result. But if we accept the matter that one part of change is the fact that it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, we will be more susceptible to try something new in the first place.
I am Michael, Partner at 1789 — Beyond Revolution , a strategic consultancy with a focus on helping organizations create new structures and empowering teams. Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? Do you want to share your story? Please leave a comment below!