A blog post I wrote for Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? about how to alter your perspective on change to improve your performance….enjoy!
Life without change
Without change over the past 200 years, what would life be like? Women would not be voting, slavery would be commonplace and we’d still be choking on cigarette smoke at our local pub.
My friends and I recently discussed the common reality our grandparents faced when selecting a lifelong partner. Their selection criteria was often limited to a ten-mile radius, the same religious beliefs and similar socioeconomic background. To make things even more difficult, there was little opportunity for ‘trial and error’, and you’d be expected to commit sharpish!
Now, it is commonly acceptable to ‘swipe right’ on your mobile dating app (whilst laying on the sofa watching Netflix), and within hours be ordering an Uber to meet your recently ‘qualified’ match.
This is an example of how those who have embraced change now experience the benefits of greater connectivity and the opportunities change can bring.
The unfamiliar isn’t to be feared, but rather it is an opportunity for renewal – Anonymous
Types of change
There are two types of change which we deal with in life:
1. Planned change
2. Unplanned change
Planned change is where you have clear objectives in mind and make deliberate decisions as to how you are going to achieve these. Examples of this include; recruiting a new hire into your team due to increased workload, technological innovation or moving office location.
Unplanned change is forced upon us by unexpected events and can be challenging to deal with, especially for those who prefer sticking to a plan!
It is the latter that may force us to question existing habits and adopt new ones. For example; moving to a new country or leading a larger team may be outside of our comfort zone, and our work habits will need to be adjusted, but this may allow us to extend our managerial toolkit with new cultural experiences and best practices – so it’s a change worth embracing. Building confidence and developing our habits in a new way is likely to result in improved, long-term managerial performance – so it’s change worth embracing.
Benefits of change
We all know change isn’t easy. Research has shown that our brains become wired to do the same thing over & over again, regardless of whether that thing is beneficial to us or not – another scroll through Instagram….another dip into the bag of crisps. Change involves us taking away old habits and creating new ones, a move that may require bold steps and letting go of our fear of failure.
Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomfort – Arnold Bennett
If we shift our mindset towards change, would this allow us to take on new challenges? Would this allow us to improve our careers and experience personal growth over the next five years? Let’s explore this a little further…
To gain a better understanding of people’s views and experiences of change, we interviewed 50 people; via telephone, face to face and online. Interviewees were asked a series of questions around their experiences of change over the past 3-5 years. This enabled us to collate a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, which we analysed and drew our findings from.
Although our mindsets around change are often attached to fear and trepidation, our research has shown that the way things turn out are never as bad as expected. How can we help our teammates and employees to realise this so they are excited (rather than scared) by new opportunities to step out of their comfort zone and want to embrace them? We think that educating them on the likely benefits might help.
Although numerous benefits were uncovered during the research survey, there were 3 common benefits which I will explore further below:
1. NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Our findings show that 100% of participants saw change as positive once they had come out the other side, even if they had originally been resistant at the beginning. Frustratingly, I see that many fantastic opportunities are available to the interviewees, yet they will experience change and automatically predict failure for themselves. They often miss the opportunity to seek the feedback necessary to speed up their development or take the risks required to move into their dream careers.
If you’ve read the Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? book you’ll understand how taking new opportunities with open arms applied to Ben’s crew, when the UK men’s rowing 8 began assessing what would make their boat go faster. Effectively the team took risks, even the day before the Olympic final race they decided to adopt a new, high risk strategy, which consequently led them to an Olympic gold medal victory.
80% of our people surveyed responded that trying new ways of doing things resulted in ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ positive outcomes and brought an array of new opportunities. From secondment placements to increased process proficiency, to finding a business partner. The negatives? Unwilling office moves, redundancies and unease about moving to a new company. However, respondents felt these all had positive longer-term implications, outweighing the original negatives. This implies that when we are faced with change, we need to focus on the long-term opportunities, not just the immediate consequences which stick out to us.
2. INCREASED INNOVATION
One survey respondent reported that, on return from maternity leave, she felt overwhelmed and somewhat angered with the new processes, management and systems she was faced with. However, within days she came to realise these changes were for the better, and the process innovations which had gone on during her maternity leave would actually make her job significantly more efficient.
This wasn’t a one off finding in our research, and surprisingly the actual change process is not reported to be as ‘uncomfortable’ as initially expected. Almost 80% of our survey respondents told us they felt somewhere between ‘comfortable’ and ‘highly comfortable’ when going through change. It is often the dread of the process ahead which puts us off. Fear of change is a survival instinct, to protect us. However, as intelligent human beings we can outsmart even our super smart survival instincts, by transforming this fear into excitement, using an end ‘Crazy’ goal to drive us.
An interviewee explained their story of finishing education with an idea for how they could innovate Australia’s fitness application industry. They embraced change head-on by founding a start-up, but quickly realised the market was changing and the original opportunity disappearing. Although their start-up didn’t work out, they developed a fountain of ‘know how’ around innovation which landed them a job at one of the most successful and agile software development companies in the world.
3. THE SNOWBALL EFFECT
78% of interviewees felt they have experienced ‘significant’ or ‘highly significant’ change over the past 5 years, showing it is inevitable for the majority. Practicing change makes us more adaptable and once we learn to embrace ‘chaos’, our study found that the benefits continued to amplify. Findings include: ‘enhanced creativity’, ‘improved self-confidence’ and ‘developed sales resilience’. These are brilliant traits for starting your own business, asking for a promotion or re-training in your field of choice.
One survey respondent expressed moving abroad to take on a role at a new company was very daunting; leaving a ‘maybe it could work’ relationship, great friends and a comfortable job made him question, ‘have I done the right thing?’. After a few weeks of apprehension, he decided that, to get through this, he would embrace as many new opportunities which the new location offered as he could. As a result, he has rapidly climbed the career ladder and extensively developed his network in Australia and feels these positive changes will continue to snowball.The pace at which our world is changing is showing no signs of slowing down. From our research it appears that adapting our mindset towards change is a crucial step to allow us to reap the benefits. Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? authors Harriet Beveridge and Ben Hunt-Davis explain that we need to be constantly challenging our ways of working in order to achieve new breakthroughs in our performance; individually and as a team.
I’m sure you’ll agree that we all want to avoid the most common deathbed regret, ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me’. Generally speaking, the more change we experience and the more things we try, the more we are able to create our own ideal world, in which we consistently perform at our peak.
We are so fortunate to live in a time where change is embraced relatively quickly by others. We have far greater equality in the workplace than ever before and far more opportunities to network, re-train and for personal growth. Oh, and with regards to dating opportunities…!