Why Telling Businesspeople to “Embrace Change” is Meaningless
Go to an industry seminar, a trade show, or read a trendy business book, and you’ll undoubtedly hear something like “you have to embrace change to be successful.” How trite. How simple. How misguided. How lucrative, if you’re on the speaking circuit.
Its corollary is “change or die.” The advice does little to improve businesses or improve businesspeople. We will die whether we change or innovate or not. We’re sorry to break the news to you this way, but it was the only free newsletter we were sending you at the time.
When you choose to embrace something, it also means that you can choose to let it go. Whatever you embrace does not necessarily become organic to the organization. It is just embraced. What kind of value can it have if you can choose to let it go?
They must be telling us to embrace change for a reason. What is the goal of this advice? It is to have businesses, their owners, and managers, recognize that they are in a dynamic marketplace. The advice assumes that they are ignorant that marketplaces change, even though the signs of change are all around them. Because the marketplace is dynamic, managers need to be constantly aware of how those unstoppable forces create opportunities, make current products and methods obsolete, and more importantly, affect their customers and prospects. They already know that. Can you imagine an industry seminar or event that was promoted as “Come to find out how our industry will stay the same”? People read industry magazines, visit web sites, go to trade shows and seminars precisely because they are concerned about change.
The advice is also myopic and not as generally applicable as it sounds. There are things that should never change. Strong financial controls. Good employee recruitment and relations. Emphasizing long-term and sustainable profitability. Performing your work well. Understanding your costs. Knowing your customer’s needs and goals. A reputation for being reliable and trustworthy. Change? Why would we want to change these things? What kind of change is it that we are supposed to be “embracing”?