Change as Opportunity
By Liz Boyles & Hunter Gray
“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
– John F. Kennedy
Change is hard because it challenges our sense of control. When change confronts us, it forces us to jump into the uncharted unknown, which can be difficult to manage. Maybe the only thing that we can definitely say about change is that it is always happening: instability and transition loosen our grip on the world and test our comfortable paradigms.
From 1872 to the 1960s, land managers stopped forest fires in national parks, only to realize that by halting the destruction, they were harming the forests.1 Forests rely on fires to create room for new growth and to decrease the threat of super-fires. Similarly, when organizations experience transition, they face the destruction of old structures, but in this devastation, they can develop new ideas. Organizations can leverage the fires of transition to build ground-breaking, stronger institutions.
When organizations are isolated in their industry “bubble,” they often suffer from groupthink that leads to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and stagnation. But in change, groups interact with new ideas, different outlooks, and diverse experiences. This infusion of different perspectives can create a synergy that is not possible in the bubble. Jazz is just one of hundreds of examples of this phenomenon. Jazz developed out of a mingling of musical styles, including Afro-American spirituals, ragtime and blues. As jazz developed, it also flowered, contributing to songs like Megan Trainor’s 2014 hit, “All About that Bass.”2 When change forces disparate perspectives together, it can cultivate unmatched creativity and innovation that influences generations to come.
New information and ideas constantly inundate us, making it challenging to prioritize. Change provides a solution to this problem; it gives us an opportunity to evaluate what really matters and what deserves our time and attention. We cannot take all of our habits, patterns, and priorities through the refining fire of change – the impurities and excess get left behind – but we can take what is most important.
Change is rarely comfortable, but it can be one of the healthiest things to happen to an organization. As you navigate transition, keep an eye out for the opportunities it gives you to get creative, to develop a new perspective, and to focus on what really matters.
1National Park Service, “Benefits of Fire,” https://www.nps.gov/fire/wildland-fire/resources/documents/benefits-of-fire.pdf (accessed 1/20/17).
2https://www.behance.net/gallery/30572453/History-of-Jazz-Infographic (accessed 1/20/17).