I’ve been thinking a lot about change today. . . .
Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times about a man who spent 10 years in prison for armed robbery. While he was incarcerated, he taught himself about law by studying in the prison library. Turns out he had a great talent for preparing Supreme Court briefs. One year, he helped a fellow inmate prepare a brief that the Supreme Court agreed to hear. Interestingly, 7,209 similar briefs were submitted that year, and the court only agreed to hear 8 of them.
Today the man, Shon Hopwood, is a paralegal who’s looking to enter law school soon. He’s gone from a serious criminal to a white-collar business professional. This kind of life change is so remarkably uncommon—it is the type of story we would normally see only in the movies. It got me thinking about WHY change is so difficult, and HOW it can become more achievable for all of us.
Without a doubt, I bet there are changes you could—or need to—make in your business that would make it run more efficiently or profitably. Perhaps you don’t use the Web to the extent that you could. Perhaps there are new stores you could open, new products you could carry, a new customer relationship management system you could use. . . . There are likely many changes you could make that would impact your bottom line. Perhaps your business needs to make a big shift to meet the changing economic times or the changing customer demands. Or perhaps you’re fine exactly where you are . . . but a change could make a big difference in your income, or in the lives of your employees or customers.
In the technology field, as we all know, change is a constant. The Web is constantly changing—how we use it, which tools we use to communicate across it. . . . Software is also in constant flux with new versions and numerous updates. . . . And mobile devices seem to evolve every quarter. Those of us who work in technology have learned to adapt to this constant change—which is often quite uncomfortable—because it’s simply the nature of our business.
To get comfortable with making—and accepting—changes, I recommend a simple technique: focus on the outcome of the changes, and not the instruments thereof. For example, the Obama administration has mandated that all hospitals adopt electronic medical records in the coming years, which will require all doctors and nurses to enter data electronically. Many medical professionals aren’t accustomed to doing that, and they find it disruptive to their processes (i.e., how they’ve always delivered care). But when they focus on the outcome of the change—the fact that it will save thousands of lives and provide better care for their patients—they’re more willing to adapt and do what it takes, even though it may be professionally and personally difficult. By focusing on the positive outcome, change goes from being nearly impossible to highly doable.
So for the changes that you want—or need—to make in your business, focus on your desired outcomes. To start, make a list of where you’d like your business to be in 6 months, then in 1 year. You can go even further than that, but that time frame’s a good start. You might even make a list of where you want to be personally at that time: spending more time with your family, devoting more time to exercise, taking up a new sport or hobby, etc. That way, you can look at what needs to happen in your business—such as hiring a new employee or outsourcing a particular function—so that you can free up time in your personal life for your desired outcomes.
Once you zero in on those outcomes—and the positive effects they’ll have on you and your business—committing to the changes becomes a lot easier . . . and a Hollywood ending becomes more achievable. I wish you the best for a positive and productive 2010.