We are inundated every day with new relationships, new ways to do things, new
expectations and new information. The total of all knowledge doubles every five
years. It has been estimated that 75 percent of all current workers will need
retraining by the year 2010; today’s high school graduates will have to be prepared
to change jobs or careers at least 10 times in their lifetimes.
The way each of us handles change bears a direct correlation with our career
We can resist change – deny its existence, keep on doing things in the same old
ways because that’s the way we’ve always done them. Then we will be buried with
the other relics of the past, done in by what the author Alvin Toffler termed, “Future
We can merely accept change and go along with the world it produces for us. If so,
we will dance on cue to whatever tune the fiddler chooses to play.
BECOME AN AGENT OF CHANGE
Or we can recognize that change is inevitable and embrace it. We can become
agents of change, so we have a hand in shaping the environment in which we live
and in determining our own success.
The alternative is obvious: be content to remain with the old and familiar, accepting
the idea that the comfort of a known environment is worth being left behind as the
world marches on.
In order to live with change, we have to realize that success is never finally achieved.
Mountain climbers have a saying, “You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the
summit a few moments, then the wind blows your footprints away.”
Peter Drucker, the chief management guru, declares, ” … success always means
organizing for the abandonment of what has already been achieved. There is no
more difficult challenge.”
This means to try new and unfamiliar ideas, untested ground, unthinkable thoughts.
That is uncomfortable, but always exciting territory. But it can be dangerous.
However, like it or not, that is where the gold is to be found.
Machiavelli wrote in The Prince in the early 1500’s: “There is nothing more difficult
to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to
take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has
for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm
defenders in those who may do well under the new.”
George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Progress is impossible without change; and those who
cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
Being an agent of change and a beneficiary requires flexibility and imagination, as
well as courage.
CHANGE AND AMBIGUITY ARE HANDMAIDENS
But most of all, to prosper in a changing environment requires that we be able to
thrive in ambiguity, because uncertainty is the constant handmaiden of change.
Change and ambiguity go against the grain of human nature; many people simply
can’t tolerate that condition. They want everything in order and ready answers for
all questions. Unfortunately, that is not the nature of organizations in flux.
The successful careerists will recognize this truth and see that uncertainties offer
the opportunity for answers and for leadership. Confident in their abilities and the
future, they will seize the moment.
No one ever said it would be easy. But common sense tells us that we have no
choice about the fact that change – at an ever increasing pace – is a sure bet. We
also know that unless we change ourselves and bring about change in the
organization where we live and work there can be no progress.