GLOBAL TO PERSONAL|
Change: A Catalyst for Transformation
The rock stars of science—notables including the real inventor of the World Wide Web, founders of Akamai and iRobot, and the leaders of the Human Genome Project—gathered earlier last year for a symposium at MIT called "Computation and the Transformation of Practically Everything." These uber intellectuals reflected on the evolution of the information age in the last century and discussed the transformations that new exciting research of this century will yield. To illustrate how far technology has come in recent history, a prominent scientist noted that the computational power of the computer that guided man to the moon was literally embodied in the Furby, an inexpensive robotic toy mass-produced ten years ago.
Computation has changed finance, commerce, politics, entertainment, architecture, biology, manufacturing, and, well...practically everything, these pioneers asserted. They also noted that each landmark change seems to be eclipsed by a greater change in succession. In 1999 the Human Genome Project made history when they sequenced a billion letters of human DNA in just one year. Ten years later biological researchers were able to sequence 125,000 billion letters in one year. And so it goes. We have experienced tremendous change in recent years, but more spectacular quantum changes undoubtedly lie ahead.
Changes to the Conventional Business Lifecycle
For businesses, this means change is a constant that necessitates we continually transform...or perish. Life is inherently cyclical, and businesses have a lifecycle as well. Traditionally it has been marked by introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Not surprisingly that lifecycle model has changed in recent years along with everything else. "Businesses have a shorter lifecycle due to globalization, increased competition and increased customer expectations," explains Adam Rapp, a marketing professor at The University of Alabama. "Consequently, firms must transform—move with greater speed and become leaner and more responsive. They need to see the market changes before they happen and keep a close eye on competition and customer demands. Firms need to be market-driving and not market-driven, be proactive and not reactive."
The best way to develop responsiveness is to become more customer-oriented, according to Rapp. "Firms need to remove cumbersome standard operating methods and entrenched attitudes and functions which often delay the implementation of much needed strategic change. In other words, remove bureaucratic hurdles and roadblocks to strategy implementation."
Starting from the End
Although decline marks the end of this conventional lifecycle, the end is also an opportunity for new beginnings and a new cycle of introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Elle Harrison, author of "Wild Courage—A Journey of Transformation for You and Your Business," says that decline or dying is an essential first step on the transformation journey. "It's the time to look at what is ending, what is changing and what/who you want to be going forward. Come back to what you love and follow that energy," she suggests. Although an obvious change in the working world may be the trigger for transformation, sometimes the call is more subtle—a longing for something more, a sense that you're not fulfilling your potential, a lack of purpose or meaning—the first stirrings of discontent.
An international leadership coach, her passion is guiding leaders and organizations through change so that they can find purpose and meaning in their work. Departing from conventional business leadership ideology, Harrison instead explores the six qualities of dying, stillness, intuition, wildness, vulnerability and surrender relative to the transformation journey.
The Journey of Transformation
Harrison says that dying to old habits and identities is the first step because it creates space for something new to emerge. "It leads to an empty, in-between space where you can learn to trust stillness and wait attentively and patiently for the new world to take form. Intuition offers guidance through the murkiness of change, leading the way into new possibilities and new life. Wildness helps you break free of old rules, beliefs and habits that were limiting your creativity and authenticity. Vulnerability, the willingness to feel and share feelings, creates a deeper sense of trust and community. And surrender? Surrender is the current running through all these qualities. Letting go of the need to control and direct life opens the way for radically new solutions to emerge."
Harrison stresses that it's important to ask yourself the big questions in order to find the solutions. "Take the time to ask yourself what you do best and how you can bring that into the world—what are my gifts, what are my passions, what can I contribute to the bigger story?" She also reminds us to also trust the stillness, seeing it as a gateway into deeper change. "Give yourself time to answer these questions. Purposefully engage your intuition, listen and be open. As you discover the answers, commit to them. And then surrender—let life show you the way."
At first it may be difficult to trust your intuition because it taps into the mystery of life, some function of unconscious perception that we will likely never understand. It is by its very nature difficult to define—it's not concrete, rational or measurable. But some of the greatest scientific intellectuals in human history sing its praises. Albert Einstein, who would have likely been a keynote speaker at MIT's recent symposium if he were alive, said, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift...The only real valuable thing is intuition."