In a previous post, Change: No Lines, No Waiting, I stated the following.
“It is vitally important that we understand what change is. It is the living, dynamic context of our lives. Every thought, every emotion, every action, every response in a particular moment operates within a change context. Every movement, shift in perspective, or initiative taken happens within the context of change. …
I call it the speed of change.
A lot of people want to slow change down. They want time to adapt. They want to think things through. They are looking for a way out, so they don’t have to change. They are waiting for someone else to come build a bridge across the chasm.
Slowing things down only increases the anxiety and the difficulty.
We need to speed up change. Change as soon as you know you should. Do this and you learn how to master the processes of adaptation and agility.
Increasing the speed of change forces us to simplify our life and work. We have to focus. Squeeze out the non-essentials and seek for singular results.
I know. It is all very counter-intuitive. The faster you change, the slower life becomes. I know it sounds like something out of the Matrix. But, it is true.”
I like for you to consider this “speed of change” phrase.
Two images come to mind. Change like a wave. Change like a door.
Change is like a wave.
A large wave. It comes at you, and if you are standing still it hits you – Whappp! – then drags you in its wake until it has moved on, and you are left gasping for air. Then the next wave of change comes along, hits you, and instead of being the master of change, you are hanging on for survival.
Instead of standing still and being hit each time by change, you have to climb on top of it and ride it until it begins to run out of steam, you curl off of it, to prepare for the next wave.
This is the kind of change we are all in today.
I’m no different than the rest of those who have been run over by a wave of change that came out of nowhere, doesn’t even have a name, and is gone.
I am fast coming to the conclusion that what we once thought of as stability, consistency, and continuity in life was just our experience of the slowness of change. There has always been change, but it just never reached the level of a hurricane storm surge. Until now.
What is it about us as human beings that we want to remain where we are?
Why is change what we resist instead of boredom and unfulfillment?
Why are we willing to make our world small and confined just so we can feel in control?
If it sounds like I’m calling for us to give up on our commitments and do whatever is before us, that would be wrong. That is not the point, at all. Instead, it is questioning what we mean by commitment, focus and staying the course through to the end. It is questioning what we think it means to be effective and successful.
Life today is not a placid pond where we can gently float through our days.
Instead, life has become an endless series of big waves, roaring down a mountain river full of rocks, whirlpools, massive amounts of water in your face, with no place to escape. It seems.
One after another we are seeing changes happening in our world that are totally disruptive to everything we have told ourselves is the way the world should be. The coronavirus crisis is an example.
Change forces us to simplify. We simplify by being clear about our values, and clear about the impact we want to have. Too many of us are more committed to the processes of our work than we are to the impact. When process takes precedence, we become disconnected from the outcome of the process. My career has been spent in a world where process is everything. When I ask people what their impact is, too often they have no answer. Because it is not a familiar concept, there is no purpose to it.
The speed of change magnifies the problem because an overly process-centric organization cannot maintain former process levels when things speed up. The wave of change crushes processes. Instead, we need to know how to trim back the process, and move to knowing how to create impact in the moment as the opportunity presents itself. That is how to ride the wave of change.
As I write this, we are in the midst of a global lock-down of national economies for the purpose of thwarting a global viral pandemic. For many people this is a moment of slowing down, a time for reflection, of reconnecting with family. For some of us, this is a moment of opportunity where we ramp up the pace of our lives to increase the opportunities for impact. On a webinar the other day I was asked if this is a good time to start a business. I said, “Absolutely!” While many people wait in passive complacency for the shelter-in-place orders to be released, others are actively creating change in their products and services to meet the pent-up demand that also will be released.
Change is a door, a threshold, to what is next.
Showing you a door is misleading. It suggests that we enter, and we stay awhile, but that doesn’t get at the real issue at the heart of the speed of change.
Instead, let’s see change as a series of doors in an endless progression, coming at us an increasingly level of speed.
Between each door, we enter a specific context or situation that demands that we perform at our best. As I was thinking about this, this scene from Monsters, Inc came to mind.
This is what change is like. Moving from one context to the next, without continuity, and at a pace that does not allow us time to think through every single possible option.
The speed of change requires us to think fast, decide fast, act fast and move on fast.
It means that we need to have more than tactical skills for change, and, more than a long range strategy for impact. It means we have to be prepared to be the person who can walk into the room and know what we have to offer to whomever is there.
This means that we have to simplify our lives, become more clear about who we are, who we are not, and what we want on the other side of every door. Imagine this.
We enter a room. We don’t know these people. There’s nothing immediately recognizable to connect to them. Yet, we have to deal with the situation as it is presented to us.
We are not thinking about how to fit in the group. We are thinking about how I can connect with these people so I can make a difference in their lives right now. Making that connection is essential to finding what it is that we can do to create some good in the moment that we are there.
There are three things we need to recognize every time we pass through a new door.
Context: We need to be able to see the social, relational, cultural and organizational context quickly.
We need to be able to assess what is going on, so we can move into action. We cannot assume that what is on the other side of the next door will be the same as the last two or ten doors. We must develop the capacity to understand what is going on as quickly as possible so we can move to begin to make a difference.
Content: We need to have something to offer people.
This is the content of our thoughts and character as a person. We enter into these situations confident that we have the substance to make a contribution that means something to someone or the group.
This content is best presented as a story. It isn’t the story I’m telling myself, but the one that I’ve prepared to tell others. To not have a story is a lack of confidence. To have a story is not egocentric or arrogant. It is rather being prepared to connect with people at a deeper level than is typically happening at the moment of introduction.
Connection: We establish connections with the people because it will be these relationships that move with us through the change we experience.
As we encounter the speed of change, we need to move more quickly than we have in the past. We will find when we do, that much of what we are now doing is adapting to changing circumstances. The quicker we do so, the better off we will be.
How Do We Do This?
It seems like what I am suggesting is about acquiring a new set of skills. In order for those situational skills to work for us, we need a change in our own sense of who we are.
If in every new situation that we encounter we feel the need to accommodate ourselves to the tribal rituals of the crowd, then we will never find ourselves in a position of creating impact. Instead, we are seeking acceptance and identity. In every room we enter, we need to have some level of detachment so that we can see who these people are, and what we have to offer them. This kind of detachment is not like feeling alone in the crowd. It is rather, feeling secure in who you are regardless of the situation. When you life is oriented about the contribution that you can make from your purpose for impact, then the opportunities for impact will become immediately apparent. Hence, the practice of the speed of change.
The greatest change we go through is in our own self-awareness. Without growth here, there is little chance of growth in impact. The faster you change, the faster you’ll discover a life of impact. It is that simple.
Many thanks to David Pu’u for the wave pictures. Check out his pictures, videos and blog at www.davidpuu.com.