There’s process improvement and then there’s change. The first one is a matter of doing more of the same but better as in performing ordinary activities extraordinarily well. The latter is about doing something else altogether. In other words, change requires changing ones behavior or habits. Changing ones behavior or habits requires one changes ones belief.
One of my great teachers, Mary Morrissey, taught me this great line: “If I didn’t believe something was impossible, what would I do?” The freedom to doing what you want to do is on the other side of the fences we build all by ourselves. Just by opening one corner of your mind to the possibility that your dream can be realized, changes your mindset and leads to action. You don’t have to buy-into it yet or throw your current belief overboard. Just allow yourself a thought-experiment, reminding yourself of the fact that any real change was ridiculous until it became mainstream. Here are some, now, funny examples:
- When the Paris Exhibition closes electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it. -Erasmus Wilson, professor at Oxford University, 1878.
- This “Telephone” has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communications. The device is inherently of no value to us. -Western Union internal memo, 1876.
- There’s no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home. -Ken Olson, president of Digital Equipment Corporation, at the Convention of the World Future Society, 1977.
- 640K ought to be enough for anybody. -Bill Gates, 1981.
- Aero planes are interesting toys but of no military value. -Maréchal Ferdinand Foch, professor of strategy at and Commandant of Supérieure de Guerre, 1911.
All those inventors had a dream or a vision. Something was pulling on their heart strings. This is what the late Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion, described as the “Hero-Adventure”. When ordinary people answer a call to go on a journey of exploration, mostly about themselves, they experience a mental transformation and upon their return to society they instigate great changes. It’s this great unshakeable belief that something is possible, that fuels their dogged and often times infectious determination. I am reminded of the famous quote: “When you desire, it wont be a fairytale” by Theodore Herzl (May 2, 1860 — July 3, 1904), the seer of the State of Israel.
Real change is a transformation of your mind and not of any conditions in your environment. This month, we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of Napoleon Hill’s famous book “Think and grow rich” that elaborates on the importance of having a burning desire. Without a burning desire there’s no incentive to changing your mind. Without the myth of the Hero-adventure, it’s hard to grasp why anyone would want to wander so far outside their comfort zone. And yet, we know that life is about growth; changing from a baby into a toddler, an adolescent and an adult. Everything we wish for is just outside our comfort zone; on the other side of the fences we built all by ourselves.
Therefore, real change is about myth; in particular about executives accepting the invitation to embark on a transformative journey. Real change is about the Fork in the road where you must decide on either persisting in conventional thinking or embracing expanded thinking. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I– I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” This is the last sentence of Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road not taken”.
Sending middle managers to transformative trainings and coaching sessions is admirable but will not contribute to any significant change until the executive with ultimate responsibility and authority buys into the idea of change. Without executive sponsorship there will be no delegation of authority nor any allocation of resources to facilitate change. Therefore, we need more myth, exposing decision-makers to inspiring stories of people that became leaders once they had found their cause or their purpose in life. What is yours?