“Change is hard. Especially for those who refuse to accept it!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
You should break your resistance to change before it breaks you!
That’s the message that folks like me often share with others – whether it’s a talk about the future, leadership, disruption, or the need for transformation. Our job is to wake you up to the opportunities, challenge your beliefs, outline the challenges, but goad you into acting.
Some people just don’t take kindly to our work. Three interactions yesterday reinforced that reality.
Two individuals didn’t quite take to my post on vertical farming. One, a farmer, seemed to dismiss the trend right out of hand, invoking as his main argument that all that we might ever see is some sort of ‘living room hobbyism,’ never anything happening at scale. He professed expertise, but his wording revealed that he never quite read my post or took the time to understand what I was saying. Another fellow, with a technology background, seemed to go into the typical diatribe of the angry – how dare I write about a trend when all I have ever done is to ‘lecture managers!’ Um, ok. The third situation involved a discussion with someone who s leading an organization into the future with fascinating new technology that offers significant cost and time savings – but is running into the typical resistance of those who view the technology as a threat to their livelihood and work, not as a wonderful opportunity to be pursued.
Everyone has an opinion, but opinions formed in the hollows of a closed mind betray the inability to take the time to truly understand the nature of change. It’s difficult to engage and interact with folks like this – their opinion, formed so quickly, and so set in stone, that a careful set of facts that lay out the undeniability of a trend essentially become meaningless. A closed mind is a difficult thing to open.
Why is this? When confronted by change, someone will react either positively or negatively – and the challenge today is that change is now coming at us from so many directions, so quickly, all at once, with such profound implications, that people are absolutely overwhelmed. And when people are overwhelmed, they form these opinions very quickly. As a defense mechanism, in the lack of full information, or with the engendered negativity of a closed mind, the opinion is often negative.
The change implies to them that their knowledge about something is not sufficient; that they might need to change how they do things; that they need to learn new information; that their past success might not necessarily provide them with the ‘right stuff’ to achieve success again with these newly changed circumstances — all situations that can be absolutely overwhelming. The result? Our brain triggers an alert – WARNING! Negativity ensues, and a closed mind closes further – because it sees a threat, not an opportunity. Potential change generates the potential for negative change – they focus on that – and our evolutionary wiring of fight or flight kicks in. Sometimes, we fight when we fight! Social media makes this tendency much worse – often to the point of toxicity.
People see the threat, not the opportunity! They see the uncertainty of an uncertain future and don’t know how to react.
Here’s the thing. This issue has been with us forever – it’s just that now, it happens faster. Consider this story:
Electric cars are either the saviour of the planet or the worst thing to happen, depending on your point of view. But we have been here before, writes Damien O’Carroll .
Ever hear the one about the man who pitched a radical idea that could replace the dominant mode of transport with something cleaner and way more efficient at the time the world was facing a serious environmental and health crisis, only to be met with scepticism and ridicule?
This man was considered a dreamer and a lunatic by many, but as a visionary forward thinker by quite a few people as well.
He wasn’t the first to come up with the concept he was pushing, but he was the first to make it work to the degree that he could sell it to the public in the United States, yet he was derided by many who should have known better.
But this man wasn’t called Elon Musk – his name was Alexander Winton, and he also wasn’t a billionaire to begin with, so couldn’t simply forge ahead with his idea on his own accord. In fact, he once recalled an angry meeting with a potential financial backer who found out about what he was doing and claimed to be “disappointed in him”.
The discussion got heated, and the potential backer eventually said Winton was a fool if he genuinely thought his vehicle would disrupt the status quo and become common.
Winton showed the man an interview with a highly respected entrepreneur who confidently predicted that in a decade’s time, people would be able to buy such vehicles for the same cost as more conventional transport, that the money spent running the conventional transport would be saved, and even safety and quality of life would be improved.
“A great invention that facilitates commerce enriches a country just as much as the discovery of vast hoards of gold” the man said in the interview. The potential investor dismissed the article derisively as just “another inventor talking“.
But the man was very wrong. The “inventor” he dismissed was none other than Thomas Edison and the article was an interview with Edison about the new “horseless carriages” that had recently begun appearing on America’s roads.
And Alexander Winton was quite likely the first man to sell a fully-functioning gasoline-powered horseless carriage to a member of the public in the US in 1898.
Resistance to Change Ongoing
17 April 2021, The Press (Christchurch)
It ’twas ever thus.
Just … faster … now.