Moving Beyond Plain Old Change

This is a guest post by Susan Alexander.  She is is the founder of app4mind and the creator of a simple memorable model you can store in your head and use to enable any change you choose to make in your life.

Think back to just a few years ago. Suppose someone had told you that a virtual assistant would be able find the 5 sushi restaurants closest to where you happen to be standing? Or that there would be a big cloud thing that you can store your data in? Or, on a personal level, suppose someone had told you that you'd leave your comfortable job and/or start your own business? Would you have believed any of it?

Moving Beyond Plain Old Change 

I ask these questions to build on the point Diahann made in this post: that rapid change is the new normal. Not just change itself, because we've always had that. 

Indeed, change is the way of the world and aways has been. You know, Darwin, natural selection and all that. Everything happens through an evolutionary process: organisms, industries, institutions, cultures, knowledge, you name it. We evolve too, and so does what makes us who we are - our skills, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and our willingness to change. 
But it does seem that change, or evolution, or whatever you call it, is happening faster. Acceleration is, well, accelerating. Self-styled geek of change that I am, I've asked myself why. And here's what I've figured out. 
Change is Sexy
distruption_by_cyspenceIt seems like everywhere you go, people are talking about change, writing about it, and doing it. Change, it seems, has become sexy. It's even taken on a new lexicon. It's not plain old change that's in the spotlight. Cooler words like disruption, innovation, and pivot are in play. We see them in Twitter hashtags as well as titles of books and names of events. 
But they're not just words. They're key concepts to understand, because they're happening everywhere, and you might actually be doing them in your own life without even knowing it. Or you might want to try them out.

Disruption. In her TED talk, Whitney Johnson explains that disruption, in a business context, is defined as a low-end product or service that enters and eventually upends an industry. (Think Netflix.) Her upcoming book is about personal disruption, which is driven by the same principles. We disrupt ourselves when we do things like leave the safety of our jobs to try something new, such as turn an idea into a reality. Cool? Sure. Happening more and more these days? Sure. But disruption is, well disruptive. Life at the low end of something is unnerving, uncertain, and scary. We risk loss of stature, influence, and financial stability - all of which could occur if we do nothing. Hence, the The Innovator's Dilemma: whether you innovate or not, you risk downward mobility. Which begs the question: exactly what what is innovation, anyway?

Innovation: In the must-read book Start with Why, Simon Sinek explains what innovation is, and what it is not. Real innovation, he writes, changes the course of an industry or even a society. Examples are the light bulb, the fax machine, and iTunes. These things changed how we live our lives and how we do business. And, in the case of iTunes, it caused a whole industry to reevaluate its business model. In contrast, simply adding a feature (like a camera to a mobile phone) is not innovation. When we add just to differentiate, it's not the same thing as reinventing. Parallels exist in our daily lives. There's a difference between changing how we do something and reinventing ourselves. Novelty, Sinek writes, isn't a bad thing, "but it can't be counted on to add any long-term value." As some have observed, one way to stay in the game long-term is to master the art of the pivot.

Pivoting. Pivot is a commonly used term in the world of startups. According to pivot guru Eric Ries, it's a kind of change designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about a product. For example, a product might start out as a whole product, but the company might pivot later, transforming it into a single feature of a much larger product. Or a product originally intended for one customer base might end up solving an unanticipated problem for a different group of customers, so the company pivots and offers it to them. Like disruption and innovation, pivoting isn't just for companies. It happens on a personal level as well. 

Make Change Happen
My fascination is with change and how to make it happen in all aspects of our lives. I named my blog Good Disruptive Change before I ever knew of disruption's buzzword status. My thesis is essentially this: we're more likely (and better able) to disrupt our own status quos when we know HOW to do it, and we're clear on WHY we should. When we know the how and the why, we're more likely to try it, persevere, and enjoy the process. It's this trajectory that gets us to the WHAT (i.e. the goal, the end result). 


Question:  What do you think? Have you ever disrupted yourself, as defined here? What's your experience with innovation? Have you ever pivoted, in the product or personal sense? We all cling to the status quo sometimes. What do you think the reasons are?

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