Keeping Pace with Change
Most of us have been impacted in some way, shape, or form over the last five years by a steadily accelerating technological revolution. Begun in the ’60’s and ’70’s with the rise of mainframe computers, transforming in the ’80’s with the personal computer, again in the ’90’s with the wide spread use of the internet, and now, in the early 21st century, transitioning with the adoption of the smart phone, the technological advances have moved even the most mundane tasks to an electronic medium.
Here at CommercialTruckTrader.com we’ve watched this transition since the mid ’90’s when we first launched the TraderOnline.com family of websites. At that time, our magazines were mid-stride, being very lucrative for the company. As the decade moved on and later into the ’00’s, we saw dramatic declines in content and distribution. Fewer people wanted to advertise in the magazines and fewer people were picking them up in their local 7-11’s.
It forced us to re-envision ourselves.
We’ve learned that to keep pace with change, we have to be willing to entertain ideas that just a few years ago wouldn’t have seemed necessary. It’s easy, however, to get caught up in the tide, always looking for the next-best-thing and never really finishing what you already have underway. In web-culture, we refer to this as the “Oooo! Shiney!” complex. It appears as hot new versions of software or hardware that make existing applications look dull and mundane. Or it might be that new ways of managing employees and resources challenge decision makers on what it looks like to run a modern business. The advances are permeating everything we do.
So how do you temper this as a business leader or as an employee trying to enact change? Those two sides of the coin can come into conflict easily and readily. A company that has functioned well with a product or policy may find requests to consider changing the product or policy frustrating. “If it has worked so well, why should we change?” they’ll ask. Meanwhile, the advocates for change will feel the well-functioning product or policy will soon be eclipsed by more innovative elements in the marketplace. “How can you expect to remain competitive if you’re unwilling to adapt?” they’ll ask.
Advocates of change need to keep this in mind: when you encounter more resistance to your ideas than anticipated, change tactics and slow down. You are likely moving too fast and need to adjust to an informational campaign. Aim for a lower goal if you cannot enact all of the change you’re looking for. People you’re approaching may not be as prepared to even consider an adaptation as you are. Give them time and don’t ever make it personal.
Those being asked to change need to consider that advocates are typically pushing because there is a perceived benefit that comes with making the change. They’re not doing it to be frustrating, but to improve a situation, whether it is a product or a policy. This means you should work on getting down to those benefits. Ask for the supporting data, objectively consider, but don’t ever dismiss an idea.
I’ve been as guilty of both of these points, as I would imagine anyone else would be. I’ve been recalcitrant, not wanting to entertain a significant change to the way I worked, as well as having been the pusher, trying too hard to enact something new when the division wasn’t ready. It’s been reflections on these points that have led me to writing this post.
Not all change is good or beneficial and one should never “fall in love” with something they’ve advocated. We’ve made this mistake many times and a recent example is with our new search product. We introduced a reloading method which we felt would reduce load times, but the feedback was mostly negative about this aspect, causing a jarring transition when going to a new page. We had to suck it up, so to speak, and revert that element. Feedback has since improved, showing that a smart technological adaptation was not a smart user experience adaptation.
Be willing to consider and adjust due to the data available to you. Consider not how much adaptation will change what you do, but consider what opportunities lie on the other side of that adaptation along side the cost of making the adaptation. Be willing to consider even if it is something you are not personally comfortable with!
We live in a world changing so fast it seems implausible.
- Facebook has gone from 12 million users in 2006 to 500 million users in 2010.
- The iPhone was launched in June, 2007. It is only 4 years old.
- In February there were ~69 million smartphone users in the United States, or about ~75 million today if the growth trend of ~10% per quarter continues.
- In 14 months, Apple sold 25 million iPads.
- The average American 15 year-old is not likely to remember life before Google.
- The average American 20 year-old may not remember life before the internet.