“All great truths begin as blasphemies.” –George Bernard Shaw, Annajanska, 1919
The greatest, most groundbreaking, and impactfully rousing ideas of all time were met with resistance, if not outright outrage. In the 1600s, Galileo was sentenced to house arrest for supporting the Copernican theory, which contradicted the long-held belief that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species sparked international debate that lasted for decades. Scientists first scoffed at Louis Pasteur’s proposal that disease was spread by germs. All of these ideas, bucked and bruised at the time of their proposal, went on to define their fields and the very workings of humanity.
Our point is this: change isn’t easy and its initial effects can be troublesome, but it is in change that we invariably set the foundation for progress.
We understand that your business is a far stretch from science and you probably don’t consider yourself to be the next Darwin or Galileo, but the concept is as applicable to the conventional and mundane as it is the historic.
Businesses, regardless of industry, thrive off of curiosity and change. Shell Oil began as an antique shop, then transitioned into a broader import/export business with the inspiration of the family’s second generation; true change came for the company when they built the first bulk oil tanker in 1892, a daring move that defined the company’s future. Or consider the fate of the National Geographic Society: When the iconic magazine began to flounder in the ‘90s, the brand adapted first to television, then other modern media. When then-CEO John Fahey made the decision to recreate National Geographic into a model that could last another 100 years, he was disrupting systems that had been in place for just as long. But in his shake-up, rife with growing pains, he saved the company.
The admittedly challenging but near-always rewarding embracement of change is applicable on both a macro and micro level for businesses. Over the course of nearly 15 years, we’ve prided ourselves on being instigators of change, and we’ve been lucky to witness the ensuing effects, large and small, on our clients. Just within the past year, we’ve attended the miraculous transformation that’s come on the heels of change: We’ve seen retailers bound for bankruptcy right their sinking ship by completely revising their strategic plan; We’ve seen how a flunking department can be saved by the tough dismissal of a tenured manager; And we’ve seen how a touch of curiosity about a new product line can blossom into a new successful sector. We’ve also seen employees talk back and buck against these new concepts and curiosities, but in the end, they’ve all accepted these changes as bearers of progress (or they’ve left—another productive indicator of change).
We know that change can seem intimidating, or even unnecessary. We couldn’t begin to count the number of times we’ve been hit with the worn-out argument, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But in response, we say: Great things were never born of complacency. They were born of curiosity and change, of grit and tenacity, and of the downright rejection of complacency. Just because your business is doing well, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make it even better. And if your business isn’t doing well? You have no excuse at all.
So this year, think big. Push boundaries. Do the hard thing. Make the plunge. And witness the inevitable growth, hard-earned and invaluable, spurred by change.