Last weekend, I was talking with some close family friends about some of the challenges they are facing with their business, now that the fall-out of the Royal Commission into their sector is becoming more and more apparent.  Issues such as external policies and competitive decisions made by other organisations in their sector, standards affecting their work with customers, changes to mandatory reporting requirements. These are all factors of which they have very little control.  We talked about how to instigate change in business practices when they can’t foresee the extent of external factors that their business, along with others operating like theirs, can’t see coming.  Very real questions were asked about how they can keep going when they don’t know where the changes are coming from or what they can do to be even more resilient and agile to cope with change.  There was certainly a strong awareness of the reality of Albert Einstein’s quote about ‘insanity being the result of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’  My friends commented on this for their business and their sector, wondering if there are other alternatives for the way forward.  They pondered about being able to see the problem but not knowing where to start to fix it and wondered what they can do about that.

This led to a discussion about Einstein’s other quote that ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it’.  The reality is that they are not the same people they were 20 years ago when they started their business.  They knew they had evolved and adapted many times during the past 20 years, sometimes with small tweaks, sometimes with larger ones, but always with a sense of optimism and buoyancy about the future.  For what is ahead of them now, they realised that they need to step aside and away from what they have in front of them in order to see other options.  They also need some way of disrupting and challenging their thinking and their beliefs to see different ways of doing things.

Easy to do?  I don’t think so, particularly when there is an attachment to the way things have always been and known to work.  It takes energy and courage to face a different pathway and the prospect of going into unknown territory when we don’t want to.  Challenges also arise when different people have fundamentally different drivers and beliefs, and often, people will fall back to what they personally need and want as a resolution to make them feel better.  It can be difficult when different people are facing challenging situations at the same time with different fears and requirements to resolve the issue.  But sometimes we don’t have a choice of looking at a different pathway.  As my friends have found, sometimes situations outside their control can broadside and directly hit our own vision and dream for the future, resulting in turmoil and confusion.  And sorrow and grief for what we may be losing as well.

Is this all bad?  Absolutely it isn’t!  There are so many ways to look at these challenging times and to search for new opportunities.  It helps to have people around us who believe in us and support our life’s work (whatever that is).  Sometimes we need the input of people who don’t know us at all to help us to see what other opportunities there may be from a difficult situation.  I think there are things that can be done, such as:

1.    Acknowledging that we have been through tough times before in our lives and we have survived (here we still are!)
2.    We have had a vision before and we can find one again.  Perhaps we just need time and space to find that new vision now.
3.    Throughout all of those years, we have learned a lot of things and we are not the same person as we used to be.
4.    We can spend time with other people who have gone through tough times in their business and hear first hand how they have picked themselves up again to get to where they are now.

Sometimes what we need is hope and the belief that we can reinvent ourselves again.  And the reality is that we will do this a number of times in our life as we age and change over time.

For my friends, we talked about bringing in a person with futurist abilities to look at where the gaps are for their particular industry.  When we talked about this, a spark of excitement came back into the conversation, with both people commenting on needing a sense of optimism to keep going.  From what I have seen of their business, they are certainly capable of developing a plan of action once they know where they are headed.  They also know that I will be walking beside them for this part of their business journey to make sure their systems adapt and progress onto the next level for where they will need it to go.  They also know that I am ‘walking the walk and talking the talk’  with this, as I have also gone through significant business changes in the past and I am confronted with this again in the near future when I close down one of my companies.  Interesting times are ahead – for all of us!

Thinking ahead:

1.    What is your approach when you are confronted with unforeseen change? Do you step up and try to control it or do you find that this sort of change can be overwhelming?
2.    If you manage other people, how do you help them to prepare for unforeseen change?
3.    If you and/or the people you manage are fearful about change that may be imposed on the business you are working in, what strategies can you put in place to minimize or eliminate this fear?