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Change Here

Change Here

After the election last week in the United States, change is a hot topic, but it isn’t political change that I have been thinking about recently. It’s how organizations and their leaders cope—or, more often, fail to cope too well—with the need for changes in business practices to promote growth and foster creativity.

It’s a truism to point out that no one can avoid change. It’s part of the reality in which we live. Nothing ever stays the same for more than a short period. It’s equally obvious that very many people dislike, even fear, change and do their very best to keep everything around them the same. That’s sad in personal life, because it makes frustration and unhappiness certain. In business life, it’s a complete disaster.

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Why do so many business leaders try to cling grimly to the status quo, believing they can build innovative companies and still be risk-averse? They must realize that it is totally impossible, yet it doesn’t stop them from trying. Using words like “risk management” rather than “risk aversion” won’t alter the outcome either. Change and risk are inextricably joined. You cannot have one without the other. The more innovative the change, the greater the risk that comes with it. Of course, things sometimes go wrong. If they do, you can always look to another piece I published this week. It’s called When Sh*t Happens, and it may just help.

Maybe it’s this fear of any threat to their beloved status quo that makes leaders so scornful of idealism. It isn’t a dirty word, as many would have you believe. Idealism is an essential foundation for change and innovation of every kind. Change often takes a clear, inner belief that things can and should be better than they are: that strong faith in some vision of a better way to organize ourselves and our world. Every day, the world around us tests our consciences and our commitment to the values we say that we hold dear. Each compromise, each stepping away from what, deep within, we know is right, is another mental and spiritual defeat. Over time, all these compromises in the name of “being pragmatic” have produced today’s sense of resignation and the belief that our current workplace culture is inevitable. It is not. WE built it. If it doesn’t work well for us (and, I would argue, it most clearly does not), it is up to us to change it.

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You would think that, given the present obsession with leadership as the answer to every organizational problem, we would all be keenly aware of the need for change in the way we understand, define and teach management and leadership skills. Not a bit of it. Our management teaching sucks. It is riddled with outdated assumptions and techniques that owe more to folk tales that any kind of objective evidence. Perhaps that is why the fashion for Hamburger Management—managing in whatever shoddy way is least demanding of careful thought, costs least, and seems quickest—is contributing daily to the undermining of people’s dignity in the workplace.

I started this piece with the need for change in how we run organizations. Last Tuesday, the “Slow Leadership” Manifesto was published. You can read it, or download a copy, here. It’s a loud plea for change of the most fundamental kind in how we design and run our organizations today.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. His new book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.
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    Last Updated on June 26, 2019

    Why Your Perception Is Your Reality

    Why Your Perception Is Your Reality

    Take a minute to scan your surroundings. Are you in a familiar place or somewhere new? Stop reading this, and just look around you.

    Pick out an object, maybe something you hadn’t noticed before, and focus your attention on it.

    If you really focus, it’ll get brighter and more “real” than it was when it was just an unnoticed piece of the background noise of your life.

    Now, try to view your surroundings from the point of the object. Some people can do this with no effort, and for others, it takes some concentration. Depending on how adept you are at focusing your concentration, you may notice a slight shift in your perception – a weird jump in realty, where you are suddenly viewing the world from a different perspective.

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    Did it work?

    Whether you noticed anything or not, your perception did change, albeit for an instant. It’s important to be conscious of your perception, because if you’re not, someone else will create it for you.

    “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

    Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

    Marketers and magicians rely on this fact to make you see things – the way they want you to see them. Artists do too.

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    You may have seen Julian Beever’s amazing pavement drawings. He utilizes the Trompe l’oeil technique,[1] which means “trick the eye” in French. He uses his drawing stills to create a perception.

    Like an optical illusion, our mind attempts to fill in the details of something — it either thinks it already knows, or doesn’t quite understand. This works out fine, when that’s the intention – momentarily letting our world be shaped for fun.

    But wandering through life, letting others create your perceptions, can make for a very unfulfilling life.

    Change Your Story, Change Your Perception, Change Your Life

    “Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” – Douglas Adams

    We all get caught up in our stories. Most of us think we are our stories. It’s when those stories take on a life of their own, and that life isn’t the one we want, that things start to suck.

    Think about the story you’re living right now. Who wrote it? Did you consciously decide to create the reality you’re living now, or was it mainly shaped by your parents, friends, spouse, school, or the media?

    If you don’t like the story you’re living, then change the perception. Envision how you’d write the next chapter of your story. Better yet, actually sit down and write it.

    Focus your perception on creating a new reality, one where you are in charge of the story. Take back the job as screenwriter and director, and stop just being an actor.

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    Everything begins with a decision – decide now to be in charge of your own perception of reality. Because if you don’t, there are plenty of folks whose sole purpose in life is to craft that perception for you. Do you trust them to have your best interest in mind?

    More About Thinking Smarter

    Featured photo credit: Andreas Kind via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Artist Network: Fooling Around With Trompe l’Oeil

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