07 November 2009
Change is certain and constant. Benjamin Franklin would have been wise to add "change" to his adage that "death and taxes are the only certainties of life." We are inundated every day with new relationships, new ways to do things, new expectations and new information.
The total of all knowledge doubles every five years. It has been estimated that 75 percent of all current workers will need retraining by the year 2010; today's high school graduates will have to be prepared to change jobs or careers at least 10 times in their lifetimes.
The way each of us handles change bears a direct correlation with our career success.
We can resist change – deny its existence, keep on doing things in the same old ways because that's the way we've always done them. Then we will be buried with the other relics of the past, done in by what the author Alvin Toffler termed, "Future Shock."
We can merely accept change and go along with the world it produces for us. If so, we will dance on cue to whatever tune the fiddler chooses to play.
BECOME AN AGENT OF CHANGE
Or we can recognize that change is inevitable and embrace it. We can become agents of change, so we have a hand in shaping the environment in which we live and in determining our own success.
The alternative is obvious: be content to remain with the old and familiar, accepting the idea that the comfort of a known environment is worth being left behind as the world marches on.
In order to live with change, we have to realize that success is never finally achieved. Mountain climbers have a saying, "You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the summit a few moments, then the wind blows your footprints away."
Peter Drucker, the chief management guru, declares, " ... success always means organizing for the abandonment of what has already been achieved. There is no more difficult challenge."
This means to try new and unfamiliar ideas, untested ground, unthinkable thoughts. That is uncomfortable, but always exciting territory. But it can be dangerous. However, like it or not, that is where the gold is to be found.
Machiavelli wrote in The Prince in the early 1500's: "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."
George Bernard Shaw wrote: "Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
Being an agent of change and a beneficiary requires flexibility and imagination, as well as courage.
CHANGE AND AMBIGUITY ARE HANDMAIDENS
But most of all, to prosper in a changing environment requires that we be able to thrive in ambiguity, because uncertainty is the constant handmaiden of change.
Change and ambiguity go against the grain of human nature; many people simply can't tolerate that condition. They want everything in order and ready answers for all questions. Unfortunately, that is not the nature of organizations in flux.
The successful careerists will recognize this truth and see that uncertainties offer the opportunity for answers and for leadership. Confident in their abilities and the future, they will seize the moment.
No one ever said it would be easy. But common sense tells us that we have no choice about the fact that change – at an ever increasing pace – is a sure bet. We also know that unless we change ourselves and bring about change in the organization where we live and work there can be no progress.
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