The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map. This week’s blog is from Radford (Rad) Harrell, perpetual change catalyst, business writer, community activist and CEO of TalentSoup. Read on for Rad’s positive approach to change….
Is change hard? If you answered “yes”, why do we hear so much about the value of change in our culture? Is change really all that great? Seems to me people avoid change unless absolutely forced to act. In some aspects of my own life, I’m less than proactive when it comes to change, typically “swerving” at the last moment to avoid hitting something (a driving metaphor is fitting, yes?). Put another way, change is usually forced upon people. And forced anything is bad.
With change being so common, I’d think we’d be much more comfortable with it. And if change, which can be hard, seems to be everywhere whether we like it or not, is the implication there is a time when change is not hard? Can change ever be easy? Is change something to look forward to? I think the answer is yes to both questions.
My first exhibit is a very small group of people in our society who voluntarily subject themselves to constant change with apparent zeal (with an extra helping of sheer terror added for flavor). These folks are radicals and rule breakers, and our fair city has more than you’d think. Such rare individuals have a special place in my heart and my calendar. I regularly meet with all types of people that share one common trait: they are all trying to do something that is almost impossible – - create a company around a fledgling idea.
In the start-up / entrepreneurial world, change is about the only thing an entrepreneur can rely on. In the chaos and constant unknown of a new business venture, most founder(s) have an unnatural ability to see change as something entirely different from what a “normal” human perceives. Founders see change as opportunity. And they act on that vision. They ask the hard questions, the “What if” and “Why” questions. It’s amazing to experience the excitement of a founder with a great idea. They grab change by the horns because they are too innocent, or too determined, to know change is hard and should be avoided. The fervor and energy of a startup venture is so powerful that reality is distorted and change is seen as something good. Change is embraced. Change is actually sought after.
But I’ve observed an oddity that infects their perspective as the idea grows and begins life on its own. Their zeal for change, and the opportunity that lies beyond it, is replaced with resistance to change. They begin seeking consistency, stability, and normalcy. Change becomes hard again. Change didn’t, well, change, their perception did.
Exhibit 2 is historical. This cycle of change, evolving from something good to something bad, seems to apply to more than just people. It applies to communities too. Our lovely city, Savannah, once had eyes that saw only potential. Change was a given in the early days of this great city, as more people were attracted to what she offered. They came because Savannah was a city of opportunity. A city that asked “What if” and “Why” questions. A city that acted on the opportunity that presented itself when answering those questions.
The value those founding radicals created, those that embraced change in the past, we have the luxury of experiencing daily. City planning, architecture, new forms of commerce and organizations (the Girl Scouts were a radical idea don’t forget), they all make up the fabric of why we choose to live here. But change, and the opportunities that are realized when we embrace it, are still all around us. How we choose to perceive change is up to us as a city.
Mentoring and coaching those atypical folks in our midst trying something new is an honor. For Savannahians to thrive now and move forward, we have to adopt a new perspective. We have to embrace change. We must start asking the hard questions and be excited to act on this new approach to shaping the future of our city.
Change in our city can be easy. It starts with you and me saying “Yes”.
“Yes” to new questions and the answers that surface.
“Yes” to new ideas.
“Yes” to change.