The recognition of fear with the very concept of change is something that all businesses, organizations and communities need to be acutely aware of.  Abhorring change in all of its forms generally leads to decision paralysis, missed opportunities and decreased productivity.  When people spend too much time talking about what facilitated old ideas and not enough time talking about how to execute new ideas, bad things can happen.  Conversely, by creating a culture that is open to change, you empower those around you to bring good ideas to the table and help in their implementation. In this way, both communities and businesses can create competitive advantages.  So, let’s take a look at some basic things we can do to keep from hindering the inevitable process of change.
1.  Reward thinking differently –  “That’s not how we do things here.”  When people hear that statement in reference to professional conduct, it makes sense.  When we hear it in conjunction with thinking differently, it’s a red flag.  Not only do we have to challenge ourselves to think differently about opportunities and challenges, but we have to surround ourselves with people that can (respectfully) challenge our preconceived notions.
2.  Resist the temptation to associate a change of direction with you, personally – Personalizing a change in direction can result in detrimental emotional reactions and resistance to change.  Having defined metrics (measurements that represent success in a given area) can help you make more logic based decisions and reinforce directional changes by offering actual data to show the outcomes of actions taken.

3.  Just try it…  You may like it! –  Occasionally, you have to try something different if for no other reason than to break the routine.  Stripping all the “stuff” off your windows to re-imagine a display, moving furniture/fixtures, switching up your marketing verbiage, surprising staff with treats, asking customers for feedback…  Getting in the habit of making changes will improve your overall creativity and improve the vibrancy of a work place.
4.  Think, plan, DO and measure –  Have a process for successful changes that actually accomplishes something AND measures the impact of what you do.  Again, if you can’t measure the outcomes, what’s the point?
5.  Encourage equality in discourse –  Make sure that people feel comfortable in sharing ideas and taking initiative.  When you have statements like “Well back in 1991” or “I’ve been around longer” or “I’m an expert in my field” lead-in to a discussion, you discourage what could be good ideas for an organization.  You definitely discourage any type of buy in among your stake holders.  Answering new ideas that require change with “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is the equivalent of telling people you are unwilling to think about other options.
6.  Be a boost, not a hoop – In businesses, organizations and communities that are easy to work with, people find ways to help make things successful.  In stagnant versions of those same entities, people feel the need to “review“, but don’t necessarily want to add anything of value that actually helps.  When people bring you new ideas, are you a “hoop” that they have to jump through, or do you offer them tangible assistance (a boost) that measurably brings their idea to fruition?

7.  Find innovations in other areas, and apply lessons learned –  Cross-applying lessons learned in other disciplines can serve as a source of innovation for businesses, cities and organizations.  The modern compass was a toy in the Orient for over a century before people realized they could use it as a directional device.  Innovations in emerging industries that haven’t had a chance to get bogged down with the anti-change crowd can serve as an inspiration for businesses, communities and organizations looking for ways to find innovative solutions to problems or ways to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
8.  If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten –  If you plan with the processes of yesterday, you may not be prepared for the opportunities of tomorrow.  If you want to grow sales, grow a community or grow an organization, you probably have to use different strategies to achieve growth.  Utilizing the same old strategies might help you tread water, but when markets change, you start moving backwards.
9.  Inaction isn’t an option –  Failure to change often means you move backwards in comparison to your competitors moving forward.  Lack of “doing” is still doing something.  You are just often moving in the wrong direction.

As the first quarter quickly approaches, you might think about how your business, organization or community needs to change to meet future challenges and take a look at how you foster positive change within your entity.  Determine your goals for the next year, but have a plan to execute (and measure) those goals.  Creating a culture that embraces change can create a more adaptable organization that is capable of growth and development.  That’s what we all want, right?
See this article and more in this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!