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Don’t Fear Transformation, Fear Irrelevance!

by David Brock on June 15th, 2015

A reader asked how to overcome individuals’ and organizational fear of transformation.  My knee jerk reaction was that irrelevance is much more scary than transformation.

Change, continuous improvement, adaptability, even transformation are not options in today’s business world.  They are mandatory if we are to grow and thrive.  They are virtually mandatory of we are to survive.

Our business worlds are changing faster everyday.  Technologies enable us to do things that, 5 years ago, were unimaginable.  They enable us to engage people differently.  They enable us to engage different people.  Technology has shrunk time and space, so now we need to engage globally in real time.

Our customers’ businesses are changing at similarly rapid paces, for all the same reasons.

New competition, new business models, new opportunities and challenges constantly reshape our customers’ businesses and our own businesses.

If we are to serve our customers, if we are to grow our businesses changing everything we do–all the time–is mandatory.

What was best and leading practice 5 years ago is irrelevant today.

What we did 5 years ago no longer works as effectively as it did in the past.  Doing those things faster, more intensely, perhaps with a veneer of technology no longer produces the results they used to produce.

There are many who bury their heads in the sand, doing as much as they can to deny the world has changed.  There are many who resist change initiatives–some out of fear, some out of ignorance, some out of denial, some out of arrogance or blindness.

Many fight hard to preserve the status quo.  They will cite reams of data, past histories of success.  They will give example out of example about what worked and why they should keep doing it.

But they don’t know how to respond, when confronted with current data, lost opportunities, lost customers, lost market share, lost leadership.

We can fight change or transformation.  We can resist it, we can fear it.

But change happens, regardless of how we feel about it.

Our customers, markets, competitors drive it–in spite of what we feel or think.

Change and transformation is scary.  We no longer have the answers, we may not even know the questions.  We are thrust out of our comfort zones, we are forced to learn new things, execute differently.

We’ll make mistakes, ideally, we learn from those and improve.

But however we fear change or transformation, the alternative is far worse.

The alternative is irrelevance.  There is no recovery from irrelevance–worse yet, no one cares and few notice.

Recent business history is littered with former innovators, leaders and giants who became irrelevant.  They now are the jokes we laugh about.

My response to the reader concerned about overcoming the fear of transformation was very simple.  If irrelevance is the alternative, what’s to fear?

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  1. Great piece as usual.

  2. Great read Dave.

    I call it the relentless, irresistible march of progress. Embrace it, separate the wheat from the chaff, and prosper. And probably have a pretty good time as well.


    • Absolutely, it’s so much more fun pushing the envelope than being on the back side of it 😉 Thanks Jim!

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