1. You are not what you do: It’s hard to separate the two. Change requires you to separate what you do from who you are. 2. Change is literally pain—but staying the same is worse: Change is literally pain—research is showing us how the brain hates the pain of change. Habits are easier, but not...
Despite the fact that you are often identified by what you do, we need to stop thinking that we are what we do. How else are we going to cope with changing times? In these times of crises where you may find yourself out of a job, have a business that is no longer in great demand, or have built...
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Six Tips for Trying Times
1. You are not what you do:
It’s hard to separate the two. Change requires you to separate what you do from who you are.
2. Change is literally pain—but staying the same is worse:
Change is literally pain—research is showing us how the brain hates the pain of change. Habits are easier, but not necessarily good for your survival. So, how to enjoy the pain of change? Practice! In this economy, fight it; staying the same is even worse pain than change. Denial of change just delays the pain.
3. Explore—get out of the office and into the field:
The more ideas you have the more likely you will have a good one.
From inside the office you can only imagine your options. You have to go exploring outside. Spend a day in the life of a customer. Begin to see, feel and think about them in new ways.
4. Change is a team sport:
Ideas come from many minds, so you don’t have to do it alone. Surround yourself with the right colleagues. People in different stages of change can inspire you or bring you down. It is not one “diet” you are going on to change your company’s physique. You need at least 4 ways to change the team. So get your entire organization involved. And you need someone to push you along. Find a coach, consultant, change agent—there is no need to change alone.
5. A picture is worth a thousand words:
Brain science is teaching us that the old adage is true. You have to visualize it. Once you have some ideas flowing, try to tell a story about them; draw a picture; get your team together to start to tell a customer or a potential customer about what you imagine to be the new idea, product, solution, system, operational innovation.
6. Forget the survey stuff:
Your customers cannot tell you what they need or want, or what solutions would be better than what they have. You are going to have to discover it for them, and then with them. The story is that Henry Ford said: “If I asked people how to improve their transportation, they would have told me to make their horses go faster.” They want more of the same, cheaper if you can please.
Buyers are also liars—they will tell you what they think you want to here, “like they always watch PBS, and then turn on the Wrestling match.” This is all about “seeing, feeling and thinking” about your business in new ways.
“You Aren’t What You Do”
Despite the fact that you are often identified by what you do, we need to stop thinking that we are what we do. How else are we going to cope with changing times?
In these times of crises where you may find yourself out of a job, have a business that is no longer in great demand, or have built your reputation doing things no one has the money for right now—there are two changes challenging you at the same time. Your financial condition has become unexpectedly precarious—“how am I going to earn a living?” But even more challenging is the question of “who am I?” Someone recently said to me that he had lost his way as his business had changed. “I am what I did. Now who am I?”
I could tell you a story about a printer or a builder or a banker - - all are very similar in the challenges that they are facing— they were what they did. Now what?
So, how do you really stop and think about all of the talent you have and what you bring to a new and fast-changing economy in which the old ways of doing most everything are changing - - if they haven’t already.
Change, we are learning from the neuroscience research being done with functional MRI’s and PET scans, is literally pain. As David Rock and Jeffery Schwartz (The Neuroscience of Leadership; Why Neuroscience Matters to Executives Strategy + Business Summer 2006) have written on the research that is emerging on the brain, we are learning more about which parts of the brain are engaged when people do things like dealing with constant disruptive change.
Our working memory is high energy when it is learning something new or responding to the unfamiliar or unpredictable. The deeper parts of the brain like habits, comfort and continuity. Your brain likes you to wake up each day and follow a pretty regular pattern. It is more efficient and your active memory isn’t working so hard. In addition, you don’t have to feel so “consciously incompetent,” which is that first step in learning new things and probably what you feel like in the midst of all of the changes taking place in your industry today.
Because we understand more about how the brain deals with change, we can suggest some things that might help you along the journey.
Change your Story. First, you have to change your story. Stories are very important because they take the abstract facts and make them come alive. Your story is very much a picture of who you think you are. The brain really prefers a picture to a thousand words, so it is time you recapture the essence of who you are and write a new story. And you will find the process of rethinking your story to be a very cathartic one—you are doing something. It also starts you on your way to taking apart your talents and seeing them in new ways.
Focus on You. This could be a good time for you to slow down and focus on you. Think about all of the things you, not just the experience and expertise developed in your business. Concentration and repetition become critical parts of the change and the learning process. People can generally think about one thing at a time, and it isn’t personal. It is the brain.
Quiet Your Mind. And, you are going to need a quiet mind. That brain does better when it is quiet. So as you begin to rethink who you are and what you do, you need to have a quiet mind that is focused and concentrating on the new you, not the one that once was; a mind that is not filled with anger, anxiety and multi-tasking.
Change Your Routine. Finally, change your routine. You have to change your habits. Don’t be like a client of mine who said he was all in favor of change and changed virtually nothing in his daily life.
The brain really is most comfortable following a habitual pattern of daily life, a well-tooled set of predictive behaviors and beliefs that developed over many years. But those may not work anymore. But the brain is more plastic than you might have thought. You can create new habits and ways of thinking about what you do and how you do it. The brain is going to fight you—push it back and keep the repetition moving the new forward.
Why do it alone? You might need a hand—perhaps you might consider a coach or a trainer or a consultant to help you. An outsider is important in many ways. They often can see things that you have trouble recognizing. They can bring you new ideas, and particularly those from other industries or from other cultures. Ideas and where you find them are very important so don’t shy away from them. The more you have the more likely you will find the right ones.
Watch for that Epiphany. As those ideas fly around something is going to click. And when you have that “aha” moment, that epiphany, all the ideas will all start to come together with a complex set of new neural connections that help your brain stop resisting the changes.
What happened to those folks who were what they did? Let’s take the printer? Business was beginning to grow again, up 15% because he stopped being a printer and started to see, feel and think about customers and nonusers in new ways.
As he learned, you can as well. He isn’t and wasn’t what he did for a living. He is much more. You might actually like the new you, too.
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