I get it, the future is scary. Richard Branson is sending people into space, Uber is taking to the sky, and we’re still burning fossil fuels despite the dire state of the environment. Although the army of sentient robots predicted by I, Robot still seems a bit unrealistic, the world is changing and those changes are coming at us faster and faster.
This rate of change should not come as a surprise. Whether at work or at home, things change—you get a new boss, new roommate, or new understanding of your kids—suddenly unicorns are out and Darth Vader is in. Situations evolve, in other words. Recognizing this and learning to evolve alongside change can be the deciding factor in whether you suffer or thrive.
In his latest book, Next is Now: 5 Steps for Embracing Change, Lior Arussy lays out his theory of change resilience. Drawing from his experience running a change management consulting firm for 15 years, Arussy gives readers exclusive tips on how to respond better next time the status quo shifts.
If there’s any single takeaway for managers reading this book, it’s the importance of employee engagement and the role good communication plays in that. Arussy cites a 2018 report that his firm sponsored in partnership with the Harvard Business Review that looks at the reasons change initiatives often fail. Common excuses one might have for rejecting change—like lack of time or budget—actually accounted for less than 25 percent of failed initiatives. Rather, poor communication (62%), organizational politics (50%) and lack of understanding the purpose of change (50%) were some of the reasons organizations failed to successfully implement large-scale changes.
These are human problems. Even when a good argument backed by facts and figures indicates a need for change, it’s our fear of the unknown that holds us back. “People are too human to act logically,” Arussy writes.
Even when a good argument backed by facts and figures indicates a need for change, it's our fear of the unknown that holds us back.
It’s all in the approach: some might feel like a new process implies that old methods weren’t good enough. Others might feel like leadership is pushing a change and it’s difficult to see how it will benefit their work. Yet Arussy is adamant that change initiatives are never arbitrary. He believes it’s up to management to clearly explain the rationale behind any change—to show employees that new tools or processes will ultimately improve their ability to serve customers. “An organization that provides its employees with the tools to make an impact on people’s lives is the company that will have the most engaged employees,” Arussy writes.
It’s normal to try and rationalize resisting change with statements like: “New is not necessarily good” or “No one else in the industry is doing this,” but usually this just means: “I don’t want to change.” Arussy points out that change is a thing we can’t control; we can only respond to it.
“The future is already happening,” he writes, “and without understanding how your emotions are holding you back you cannot successfully move forward.”
Procrastinating can be costly
Any yogurt lover probably knows Chobani, but more than the name, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the benefits of Greek yogurt. But when Chobani first hit the scene in 2005, bigger players in the yogurt space like Dannon and Yoplait ignored the data that indicated Americans liked the thicker, low-sugar Greek yogurt options. Ten years later, Greek yogurt accounts for 50 percent of the market share and Chobani has solidified itself as a household name.
“What was added value 5 years ago could be commonplace today,” Arussy writes, “If you are waiting for validation it will be too late.”
Confronting the facts can be painful. Oftentimes we are faced with clear indicators that change is necessary, but ignoring or rationalizing our way around it is never more than a short-term strategy. Resisting change ultimately means that you get left behind.
"If you are waiting for validation it will be too late." - Lior Arussy
Arussy makes the point that it’s never safe to assume what customers want. Just because people were doing fine before mobile banking apps existed doesn’t mean that providing them with that option wasn’t a great idea. People often don’t know they want it until it’s offered or available. Arussy suggests keeping a close eye on customer complaints to get an understanding of what pain points they want solved.
Similarly, waiting for competitors to adopt a new technology or strategy will leave your organization constantly playing catch-up and losing out on market share and market relevance. “Face the facts early,” Arussy says, “so change becomes an opportunity rather than a threat.”
Discover what drives you
Once you recognize the inevitability of change and can embrace it—rather than fear it—Arussy believes you will begin to seek change and find excitement in it. Yet when your newfound change resilience wanes, it’s helpful to remember your roots.
Arussy advocates for connecting with your core cause—the reason you got into the work you are doing. For a teacher that cause might be to educate and inspire, or for a police officer it might be to create a sense of security in the community. The tests that an educator administers, or the traffic stops a cop makes, are simply tools to help fulfill their greater cause. And while a teacher may need to incorporate computers into the classroom and the police may wear body-cams, these new tools shouldn’t—and don’t—change the reason they got into their line of work.
When you can identify your core cause and recognize the impact your work has on people’s lives, it becomes easier to accept the smaller changes that help you accomplish this goal, and to view new tools as a way to do your job more effectively. A fun exercise that Arussy’s team uses is to ask people to write their own job title by attempting to redefine your work in terms of what you really do and who your work impacts.
“Most formal titles reduce people to a set of tasks and rob them of the ability to take pride in what they do,” writes Arussy. “Jobs that remind us of the impact we have on others elevate our performance in a way that makes a difference.”
When you can identify your core cause and recognize the impact your work has on people’s lives, it becomes easier to accept the smaller changes that help you accomplish this goal, and to view new tools as a way to do your job more effectively.
For example, a receptionist may call themselves “Director of Customer First Impressions”; an infectious disease specialist could be a “Germ Slayer”; or a call center employee could be “Queen of Customer Love.” Whatever empowers you to see the impact you have on the people you serve, and the people you work with, should be a good way of reminding you why you started doing this work in the first place.
Change has to be your choice
Next is Now closely follows the self-help book archetype: it’s full of great quotes and anecdotes both from Arussy’s own experiences and from around the business world. If it doesn’t make you love change, it will no doubt help you shift your perspective.
It’s an ideal book for Gen Xers and older millennials as they begin to reach the stage of their career where business doesn’t look like it did when they first began. And while the lessons are most relevant to people in positions of leadership that need help implementing a change, Arussy does a good job of framing the topic of change management in a way that anyone can become more change resilient in their everyday lives.
I’m not saying that reading this book will turn you into a new person overnight. “Change is about replacing old habits,” Arussy says. “Anyone who guarantees success in transformations is either selling a basic idea or lying to you.”
To truly get something out of the lessons in Next is Now, you have to choose to react differently to change. Essentially, you’ve got to change the way you change and forgive yourself when you slip. “No journey is a straight line between intention and success,” Arussy writes, “but a world in which people stop changing is a world without progress.”
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Karam Hansen is an aspiring renaissance man, dabbling in writing, DJing and other artsy endeavors. A fan of challenging perspectives, he uses his global upbringing and background in sociology to engage the important issues of this dynamic world we live in.