Investing in change can create innovation

One can rarely read a business publication without several articles on the importance of investing in training and employee development.

That investment and advice was solid at the turn of the 21st century and is perhaps even more important in 2021.

However, one area I think we need to really focus on in an organization and within a team is the ability to adapt to change and become nimble. In other words, mastering the concept of change and change management.

I will never discredit the value of traditional hard and soft skills training that has defined most of corporate training during the past 30 years. In fact, I developed a fair amount of curriculum in these areas.

However, what I find interesting is in the soft skills arena, change and change management are not listed, yet a closely related concept — adaptability — is listed.

While there is certainly overlap between being adaptable and being open to change, being adaptable is primarily focused on the personal or organizational response to change. While change and change management provides us the tools to initiate a difference — to replace something with another.

In other words, adaptability gives us the skills to assimilate to the change or change management initiative.

Today’s business culture requires individuals and organizations to be masters of change. As we are well aware technology is changing at literally break-neck speed. What was the go-to technology a few months ago, might be nearing irrelevancy today.

Consumers are demanding organizations and products to evolve at a similar pace — it is all about being fast to market and being one step ahead of the demands of the customer. In other words, tell me what I want before I develop the internal demand.

Systems are easily the most adaptable and change friendly pieces within an organization. The challenge comes with moving individuals and organizations forward at that same pace.

Some believe (as I) that resistance to change is evolutionary — change represents uncertainty and uncertainty is a less preferable state. Other management scholars contend humans are only reluctant to change when they do not believe or understand that the change is in their best interest.

Either way, change and change management requires carefully planned execution to be successful.

Change management — while a difficult concept for many — is a mandatory skill for professionals today — despite a human’s desire to maintain an inner homeostasis through a consistent lifestyle and a reliance on one’s neurobiology wiring to prefer functions that become nearly automatic to routine behaviors that make us feel good or at a minimum remove dissonance (smoking, nail biting, driving the same route to work, exercise or even simple things like the order in which we eat platted food.) Patterns emerge that are very difficult and dissonance creating to change.

This inner consternation is contrary to modern business expectations. If business is designed to move at an accelerating pace of change, yet humans generally prefer comfort of known situations and inner homeostasis, there is an increasingly critical need to train and teach change and change management.

One could formulate a plausible argument that change management might be the most important soft skill we could provide our teams in the coming years.

If organizations were composed of individuals who were masters of change management, it could reasonably be deducted that the rest of the innovative and nimble environment would be considerably easier to achieve. In other words, starting with teaching the value of change the skills that go into both change and change management will enable all of the other training to be exponentially (perhaps 10 times) easier to achieve.

All the soft skills in the world will do little to replace the anxiety of change. However, if we first eliminate the anxiety to change, all other skills will be that much more valued and absorbed. I believe evolutionary biology affirms this concept.