Tackling resistance to change

Change is the only constant –  a philosophical gem that is often quoted sardonically. It is impressive that Greek philosopher Heraclitus discovered this truth nearly 2500 years ago. Today, it’s a truth that has become impossible to escape in day to day living. Change makes us uncomfortable. But, if we delve deeper, we would find that change also means that whatever is not nice right now, be it my mood, or a disagreeable political environment or the weather, that too will change.

Yet, it is in human nature to resist change. Nostalgia is a powerful sentiment that has fed powerful poetry and literature through the ages. However, we are moving towards an era where our survival as individuals and as a business depends on our ability to tackle this resistance to change. More specifically a resistance to innovation. All the rapid change we see around us today are catalysed by technological innovations. There is no option but to embrace it.

The fundamental trait of an innovation is that it is an improvement. The fountain pen was an innovation after feather tips that needed to be repeatedly dipped in a bottle of ink. The automatic gear is an innovation in automobiles making driving easier and smoother. Digital cameras were an innovation in photography freeing us of our dependence on handling film-rolls and waiting for them to develop etc. Innovations often disrupt industries irreversibly. Unless they tackle the resistance to change and become future ready.

There are three kinds of responses to change. Of denial – the proverbial ‘head in the sand’ approach where you simply refuse to acknowledge the impending pandemic or tsunami of change. Of panic – where imaginations are let loose to cook up the dystopian tales, such as the first episode of the Netflix series, Black Mirror. The episode released on Dec 4, 2011, was based on the premise of a time in the future when the entire human race had turned collectively voyeuristic. The story betrayed a very narrow understanding of the human race or alternately a shrewd sense of a panicky audience. Of acceptance – of seeing things as they are, analysing facts, figures and trends from multiple sources to evaluate how best to cope and thrive in the face of innovation led change.

The times we live in give us very little time to choose the style of response. The speed these innovations are impacting us is similar to the pace at which Covid19 became impossible to ignore. There are heavy costs and risks involved in keeping denial as your first line of defense. At the other extreme, believing that machines are out to end the human species is not going to be constructive either. Both these tendencies are different forms of resistance to change. These are also the most common, explaining the popularity of a show like Black Mirror which often misrepresented what innovation could do to people and the shift it would cause in the way the world runs. Keeping a mindset that is eager to explore how best to benefit from these innovations could help us have an advantage and also help the world see the positives too.

What we need is to develop an openness to unlearn and learn. To let go of our ego. To get out of our comfort zones. All it takes is a shift in our own attitudes. It takes immense humility. Most of all it takes recognition of the profitability for the self and for the organisation you lead to do so.

There is a lot we stand to gain from cultivating the ability to tackle this inherently human resistance to innovation. It gives us an edge in a world where the ones who embrace innovations race ahead of the rest. It helps us stay young and relevant. As the currency in which we are millionaires today loses value, we get equipped to earn in the new currency. It ultimately makes our life easier, more efficient and rewarding as innovations always do. Constant change means constant opportunity. We live in time characterised by constant innovations. We are entering the era of constant opportunity.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Pooja Nair
Pooja Nair has over 20 years of experience as a branding consultant across leading global Ad consultancies. Pooja is also known to be an ex theater performer, actress and model. Since September, 2022, she has focussed completely on her passion for the changing face of business, brand-building and reputation.

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