Change (the other kind)

The other day it occured to me that change happens in generally two ways.

One is the kind everybody thinks of first. It’s dramatic and unique, paradigm-shifting, curve-jumping. Change that is considered revolutionary. Changing the game within the blink of an eye. It’s what VCs are looking for, it’s sellable because everybody knows straight away “Wow, this changes everything!” Well, sometimes they don’t and it takes them a little longer. But then everybody starts looking for the next big thing.

As it turns out, there is another kind of change, one that is constant and slow. This is the kind of change that renders you obsolete in different ways:

  • your job requirements have shifted over the last 15 years
  • your customers have aged and are no longer your target group
  • your service has been replaced by a free or cheaper resource

It’s tricky because this change doesn’t come with a lot of fanfare or other dramatic indicators. It just happens. It’s evolutionary.

The funny thing is, you can hardly sell the second kind to anyone to make money, right? People don’t see a need to move as long as there’s only a little difference to what they already have. They want the new model with hundreds of new features — or no change at all (even if it’s a fad). The stupidity here is the concept of thinking. People buy in a way they’ve always bought. Maybe because that’s how they were accustomed to buying as kids and didn’t think it over. At least it’s a good explanation why some senior management acts like, well, kids.

[And even though I don’t want to get political here, I just wonder when Mr Obama advertised the coming of change, did anyone ever ask what kind of change he meant? I don’t think so. People just assumed he meant dramatic and revolutionary — and no one really thought about how to pull all of this off. And, picking up the last post, when the financial crisis came as a revolutionary change, everybody was impressed (and shocked, yes) because it was hardly on anyone’s radar. From where we are now, there is little chance that some revolution will turn things the other way. No matter how many people are waiting in despair.]

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