The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with the adage, “The only constant is change.”
"How will health care reform affect me or my organization?" "Will Toyota be able to repair its reputation?" and “Should I get an i-Pad?” are just a few of the new questions linked to changes already seen in 2010. Many more unforeseen changes certainly will follow as the rest of the year unfolds.
Reactions to change – as individuals and organizations – have a major impact on our ability to be healthy, productive and successful.
For individuals, handling change requires the ability to learn, adapt and apply wisdom to new circumstances. Author and leadership coach for several Fortune 500 companies, Kevin Cashman, says, "It's about developing an unshakable inner confidence that we can handle and learn from anything that comes our way.”
A five-year study of 97 active, productive people older than 100 years of age conducted by Dr. Leonard Poon of the University of Georgia found that, beyond genes and diet, there are six common characteristics that form a foundation of resilience needed to best handle change:
- Support: From friends and family
- Engagement: Active involvement in life
- Relaxation: A tendency to be calm and relaxed
- Optimism: A positive view of the past and future
- Problem-solving: A sharp mind and a determined spirit
- Adaptability to Loss: Ability to stay balanced by adapting to and accepting change and loss
For organizations, the challenge of anticipating and meeting change head on is greater than ever before. New technologies and business models in particular are leveling the playing field in many ways. The best-equipped organizations, according to best-selling author and Harvard professor Gary Hamel, will be those that have equipped their employees in two ways:
- With the power to innovate
- With the ability to do more than simply follow orders from senior leadership
Companies that have been practicing this philosophy in the past are now reaping the benefits. IBM, for example, had an on line "Innovation Jam" in 2006 in which 100,000 employees, customers, consultants and others shared their views with the CEO. Top management then gave funding to the best ideas, which are an important part of the company’s business offering today.
The bottom line is, without change, companies and individuals become stagnant. As we move ahead, remember that integrating the reality of change can be liberating and growth stimulating. Keep your eyes and ears open, work to cut through the layers of old patterns and discover the opportunities that will keep you ahead of the curve.