Why Change?Aug 14, 2023
As creators, we are – by default – agents of change. It’s in the name: “creation” means to bring something to manifestation that previously did not exist. This is the most profound type of change. But why change at all?
It is no secret that most people fear change. It’s one of those things that sounds great until it happens to you.
A Cautionary Tale
Here is a personal example: Several years ago, I acquired a small business. The advice from my business network matched my own experience: fire everyone and bring in your own team. The downside to this is that you will inevitably lose valuable institutional memory. You will have to reinvent the wheel in many aspects. The upside is that you have a fresh chance to make that wheel more efficient. If you have experience and the expertise necessary to implement your vision, this approach makes sense.
But, in spite of the success I have had with it, the “start from scratch” approach always feels yucky. Some of the employees had been there for many years. So on this occasion, I convinced myself that a total restart wasn’t necessary (and, you know, institutional memory…) So I decided to go for a more “balanced” approach and had everyone reapply if they wanted to continue to work there.
I reasoned that this approach was more gentle than termination. I would outline my vision of where I was taking the company. Those aligned would be excited for change and those not aligned would simply and amiably ride off into the sunset.
My M&A friends had a good laugh and said, “Right. OK.” I managed to override my gut feeling that they were right with the warm and fuzzy feeling that I was being “nice.”
As planned, some of the employees decided to go a different way. This is the part that worked. Those who stayed were unanimous in their statements that, “Change is exactly what this place needs.” And “We have all been waiting for someone who could bring some change to the business.”
Within six months, every one of the old crew had left, mostly with great drama and considerable bad press. Only one person of the entire staff remained, and was a great employee for the remainder of the business’ very successful – and profitable – existence.
Lessons for me: “Warm and fuzzy” are not good metrics for growth. And, “trust your experience.”
Lessons for them: Be careful what you wish for.
Change is Scary
Why is this? What is it, really, that scares people about change? The answer is much longer than befits a blog article, but here is a partial list:
- Fear of the unknown – what will happen?
- Fear of loss – of status, systems, hierarchy – will I lose my identity?
- Fear of loss of control – I’m used to doing it by myself…
- Fear of having to create a new habit – I’m used to doing it my way…
- Fear of a lack of competence – what if I can’t keep up with the new expectations?
- Fear of new information – what if I have to question my beliefs?
- Fear of internal political change – will I still be seen as the “go-to” person?
Perhaps most frightening of all: If I adopt a new mindset, I may have to change the way I think and act.
Change is What We Do
As creators, we need to be aware of these fears, in ourselves and our audiences. We are, after all, in the business of change.
If your role as a creator means you are an entrepreneur, all of the above could literally apply to you. If you are an artist of any ilk, you will find that there is a direct relationship between the originality of your work and the degree of angst it engenders.
Put more simply, authentic creations attract trolls and dissenters.
Because people fear change.
Which brings us back to the original question. If everyone fears change, why do we work so hard to provide it? Why do our audiences, clients and fans crave what we do?
Change, as scary as it can be, is better than stagnation.
As a species we are quite literally hardwired to seek novel experiences. You need look no further than our psychoneurological dopamine reward circuits for evidence. Those endless hours of doom scrolling are nothing more than variable reinforcement paradigms for dopamine hits. And the dopamine “hits” when we find something new.
We create the new, the different, the provocative and the unexpected. We provide for entertainment, introspection, education and escape.
At our authentic best, we manifest change that makes life more interesting, more comfortable. We can help people find happiness, kindness, tolerance.
We may bring about change that gives someone a reason to go on. The hearts and minds we change may heal a society. When life sucks, you need a change.
And we are the changebringers.
So damn the torpedoes and the trolls. Ignore the naysayers and the malcontents. Shake things up as only you can and let the chips fall.
Do what you do, and keep the world moving forward.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. You can reach me through the comments section on my Substack or Medium accounts or the blog section on my website. If this article as of value to you, please follow my Instagram and Twitter accounts. And be sure to subscribe to my River Of Creation podcast – The Podcast for Creators! – coming later this year.
Be well; do good!
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