Why change is hard for companies

Change is of course always hard, but I’m not talking about personal change here but about change in organization and how companies and industries work. We have a lot of current examples with now with the entire Music and Mobile phone industry plunging off the revenue cliff like lemmings. New ideas tend to come from people who have a lot of time on their hands. You see, there is something about our minds that just makes us crave new things. This might sound strange as we’ve all had grand mothers and friends who just put up a fight against everything new. But we are slightly skewed as witnesses towards these events, they’re not against new things you see. They are just a bit frightened that what people are pushing for might make what they were doing sound wrong or stupid. Basically, we’re all afraid to be laughed at.

But we still love to learn new things, most of us travel or read or watch movies. And while we often do pick out favorites just to be safe we always got those favorites or find new ones because we learn as we go. Fast or slow, we all learn and move on. But the process takes time.

This is why youth always seem to be full of fresh ideas. Sure, many of them have been tried, not all youngsters check before they start to wave red flags, but certainly not all of them. This is because young people have more free time to indulge and learn new things. Name any period in your life when you learned more than as a student? Can you honestly say that most of what you learned happened in classrooms?!

And this, alarmingly, is the problem. As companies get larger and the people working for them are more senior they get busier and busier. Which leaves less time for learning. While people are promoted because they do excellent work, they usually struggle to keep doing excellent work and thus have even less time to indulge.

Because of this we end up with a pyramid of ideas and power that is completely polarized and slightly ageist. The broad bottom is made up of mostly young people with most of the ideas while the upper parts are made up of mostly older people with less modern ideas. It’s not the fault of any of them. It certainly isn’t intentional. But it’s bad for the company and it leaves the company less open to change. Not because the people in charge don’t believe in change, but because they haven’t had time to live the change that has already happened.

An old saying is that winners work hard and play hard. I would argue that because they work hard and find the time to play they are still agile and current enough to be winners. They have all the experience and still have had time to learn the modern ways of doing things before Google took over the market.

Ah, you’ll now think, or did earlier, what about companies such as Google? How can huge organizations like them stay current?

Well. They don’t. Not completely. But they are fighting this trend by letting their employees use 20% of their time to work on their own projects. A few other companies use similar strategies but Google is the most famous promoter which is why I chose to make an example out of them.

No one can stop change. We have to move with it or be left behind. This includes the Music industry, Mobile phone producers and web start ups equally. Maybe using a bit more time  for playful learning can give us a competitive advantage?

Oh, and “free work time” is also the only way to motivate people working creatively apparently:

[ted id=618]