I love music — well, most music. EDM gives me a massive headache, but for the most part, and I’ll listen to it for hours. My favorite, though, is rap.
We gotta make a change
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
And let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
What we gotta do, to survive.
Change is one of the few constants in life. It is a powerful force that keeps our lives and our cultures vital and dynamic. And in our lifetimes, what has changed significantly is the rate of change. As a result of things like population growth increased global and social mobility, and technological advances, the rate at which change occurs has accelerated exponentially. This acceleration is experienced both on a personal level and universally for all peoples.
On an organizational level, for example, over half the companies that made up the Fortune 500 in the year 2000, no longer exist today. These companies have either dissolved, merged, or acquired by other companies. Think about that for a minute. More than half of the largest and most influential companies in the world have ceased to exist in less than 20 years. There are various causes and explanations, but invariably it’s because they didn’t adapt to their changing business ecosystems quickly enough and became extinct.
One of the biggest challenges you will encounter with a culture change is the culture itself. Let me explain; many companies offer different kinds of training programs that are designed to help their employees work more effectively by changing their behaviors or habits, like learning how to become more organized or manage your time more effectively. Can you remember when you took a course like that? You probably came back to the office with new insights, very motivated to change your behaviors, and incorporate what you learned into your daily work. Ideally, you had the support structures in place when you returned to work to help you make those changes.
Unfortunately, what often happens in these situations is people quickly become frustrated and abandon the new habits they learned because the environment they work in hasn’t changed with them and doesn’t support the new way of working.
Corporate culture is described as the way things work around the office. Understanding your company’s existing culture is a crucial part of creating a culture of change. If the culture itself doesn’t support the change, it says it wants to achieve; then, it will fail. Once you understand your company’s culture better, then you can anticipate obstacles and develop a plan to overcome them. To understand how culture affects culture change, I’d like to focus on two distinct types of culture, one with fixed mindsets and those with more adaptive or growth mindsets. In general, companies with fixed cultures value things like high IQs, hierarchy, authority, competitiveness, and winning. Taken individually and in moderation, none of these characteristics are especially harmful and can even be a good thing. But when they define a company’s culture, they can prevent it from adapting and growing.
A classic example of a modern company that’s suffered from a culture with a fixed mindset is Enron. Enron was an energy company that thrived in the late ’80s and then spectacularly collapsed in less than 25 years. The company’s leaders became overconfident and thought they had such a high-performing culture that failure was impossible. What developed was a culture where no one questioned authority or behavior that seemed inappropriate. Feedback was obsolete. And as a result, people didn’t grow or learn. Because the culture couldn’t accept and learn from failure, when it eventually got caught and did fail, it was a grand failure that cost thousands of people their jobs and billions of dollars for investors. On the other hand, companies with growth mindsets develop adaptive cultures that tend to value things like determination, resilience, questioning, experimentation, open communication, and collaboration.
I’m not going to get all Zen on you here, but we can learn something from two of the central tenets of Buddhism. The first is that nothing is permanent. The second is that attempting to avoid pain causes suffering.
While it may seem intimidating at first, in most cases, change is a good thing. Change can be stressful, so people try to avoid situations that could potentially make them feel uncomfortable. As the saying goes, better the devil you know than the deep blue sea. We often cling to familiar things, rather than change to something we don’t know as well, even if that change could provide a better outcome.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away here, let it be this. If you change your beliefs and expectations towards change, it becomes relatively effortless, and can even be enjoyable. You learn to appreciate every moment and understand that the next moment will likely be different — what a refreshing perspective. Life is a temporary assignment; make it work.