Transformation isn’t really easy, that is true: it is the challenge of getting people to think and mostly “feel” differently. And not only is it not easy; the time available to adapt to change usually doesn’t match the urgency of it.
On the other side, as heard at a round table in Zürich some time ago: why run after the train if you could anticipate when it is leaving? However, that isn’t easy either, as to do that, people need to have some qualities and behavioral traits that in fact are not easy to find.
Usually, first going through the desert and facing all kinds of challenges and resistance from behaviors driven by traditional-minded people and executives, all fearful and negative, constantly skeptical about what they just do not understand, human history is filled with great inspirational examples of people who, by never giving up or backing down, in the end leave their transformation mark and are remembered for not “just riding the train,” but for building great stations. These people don’t care about belonging to anybody’s “special club” to protect their little and personal garden, but rather take risks and the chance to indeed, transform.
What is then that magic potion and formula that those people have? What is it that drives their behavior?
Here are what seem to be important traits and characteristics:
Courage: Courage to explore where no one else has gone yet, to challenge and defy skepticism, and to be persistent when others do not yet follow.
These people are usually:
- Very open and creative, ready to embrace and position innovative solutions
- Trustworthy and consistent in following through on ideas and executing upon them
- Respectful but allergic to what the world perceives as “fact of life,” aka “we have always done it this way”
- Inclusive and collaborative, but very independent minded
It is the mix of the above that in the end defines “courage”; failing on one of them would instead define failure and isolation.
Renaming the problem: Imagining and re-imagining problematic situations or business issues, looking at them from different angles and perspectives, and asking for help and feedback to re-invent approaches and then possible new solutions.
Give the problem another name: call it opportunity.
I suppose most all are familiar with Steve Jobs, as he went through the desert and the absurdity of being kicked out of his own company just a few years before finally contributing to changing the world through technology. Other examples would come from people coming from rural Asian areas, starting off with very little money, but based on a solid and humble working culture, later creating well-respected, multi-billion dollar corporations, improving people’s and businesses’ quality of life.
People facing a problem, elaborating on it, and turning it into an opportunity.
Urgency: The ones who innovate will not only go against the tide and the skepticism, they will also go fast, aimed at achieving their goal, getting it done, doing it now. Some people do not invent anything new, some simply copy ideas. What they do, though, is acting quickly upon an idea, pushing it forward, and believing in it with little to no hesitation.
Six/ten months away from the launch of the first iPad, how many of you remember a round table with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as they were both asked about the future of the personal computer? Bill was quick in responding, saying that in time, there was little doubt tablets and “other devices” would soon start to take over; and as much as Steve was slow in answering the question (in fact, he did not even do that), he was very fast in delivering on the idea – what seemed to be Bill’s vision – and benefit from it. By the time Microsoft came out with the first tablet, Apple dominated the market (it's fair to say, though, that MS Surface later regained a lot of the lost ground).
Likewise, it was Xerox engineers who exposed Steve to the first mouse prototype. But it was Steve to enthusiastically take it up and implement it. Xerox came far too late in the game, when Apple was already launching advanced Mac products. It was about the burning aspiration to get it done that allowed Steve to set himself apart.
Change is hard to most people, letting go of traditions and legacy, which provided comfort over the years. It is about who we are: we identify with our old stuff and our way of thinking. And as soon as one tries to set a new road, it will be bound by resistance and obstacles being put there by the ones who either feel unable to be like you (and hating that) or are genuinely tradition-minded (and therefore even more convincingly fighting against you).
To those people, it is a threat to their own identity and personal ego.
But to change, one has to get out of his/her own cage, very often highly-located, as the sight is bound to be very different below. The ability to re-invent and start from zero again and again, even when it took a long time to get there, will eventually define the personal relevance in the business.
And now, re-read this article, and change the word “people” to “company.”
Enrico Tramacere is Italian and Swiss, living in Zürich for over 20 years, and married with two daughters. Enrico brings to Orange Business Services his vast experience in the IT area, where he's had roles from engineering to global account management and sales management, working for companies such as Reuters, Cisco and Verizon. Enrico is passionate about sales and enjoys holding relationships with customers, partners and colleagues. In his spare time, Enrico practices triathlon and horseback riding.