CHANGE IS DANGEROUS
Todd Dewett | January 30, 2020
We often make heroes out of our innovators. They are activists, change agents, and provocateurs. Following their big wins, they are celebrated. But how accurate is our portrait? Not very. They always experience strife we forget.
It’s true in business as it is in society. When a new gadget comes out, a fancy piece of software, or a sublime new technology, we deify the creator. On the social front, when a person successfully takes a stand, starts a conversation, or otherwise brings attention to a big issue, they are lauded.
However, the reality these change agents experience is a bit more difficult. They are loved and hated, held up and ripped down. When the status quo is challenged, the ignorant and the powerful will resist – often passionately.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is my favorite example. His contribution was so powerful, his modern persona so huge, that it seems odd to think of him as anything other than one of the greatest change agents who ever lived.
Today, he is universally heralded. At the time, not as much. There are many popular images of MLK. The mug shot included in this post is not among them, but should be. On many occasions, he paid the price for speaking up and attempting to make change. During his day, he was unpopular with white people and also with a size-able chunk of the black community.
It’s a terribly useful reminder for anyone at work or in the community who wants to step up. Do it! I’m not saying you should not care or that you should not try. To the contrary, I just want you to have your eyes open. I want you ready to take the hit, because it’s coming.
First, realize that every win has difficult consequences. When power shifts that means someone is losing power. Thus, inevitably, some will see winners and losers, even though you were just trying to do the right thing. If you know this is likely, you can plan ahead. You can prepare the right messages to be shared and be ready to extend olive branches. Helping everyone focus on shared pursuits and common ground can begin any needed healing.
Realize that some of your good deeds will be punished. Even when you’re not successful in advocating for change, you can still face blow-back. To make change is to be public. When your real ideas, desires, and actions become known, others notice. We are a judging species. If you win, you’ll face tension as you form relationships with new tribes. If you lose, you’ll face even stronger tension.
You will survive the fight to the extent you’re fighting as part of a great team. Good ideas are simply not enough. You need a coalition. Go find like minded humans. Beat the street, pick up the phone, use email, texts, websites, podcasts, blogs – if there is a channel, use it. It’s one of the few consistent truths associated with change: the stronger your numbers, the stronger your chances.
Change is ever present. People resist. Others advocate. You can impact the pace of change. In my mind, that makes you special. Just realize they won’t always throw roses at your feet. In fact, at least half the time, they’ll try to trip you. It’s worth the fall.