How to cope with change

Change is inevitable. We can resist it as long as we want to, it will always win in the end. So the best solution is to reduce the “pain from struggling against the change”. Here’s what we came up with for how to cope with change.

We kicked off our “Uncomfortable Talk” at LHBS last week with this quote from our old pal Galadriel:

The world is changed; I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the earth, I can smell it in the air.

We think that she’s spot on, not only for Middle Earth but also for our world in the 21st century. Technology and Moore’s law are changing the face of every industry out there. So we followed that quote with a tour de force about some of the changes we see in our cities, our work and our media happening right now.

There’s so much amazing stuff happening our there. From the possibilities of analyzing collective data of people moving through public transport systems to challenging consumerism with collaborative consumption and open source product development to publishers losing the monopoly on distribution. We are excited by change. We always have been. But we are a small minority. That’s why we were able to talk about the stuff that excites us but label it “Uncomfortable”. The stuff that gets us going makes others cringe and tremble. But as our friend Ben Hammersley said recently at the Lift conference:

The pain isn’t from the change, the pain is from the struggling against the change.

We humans in general don’t like change. We feel the safest if everything stays just like it is. That’s why we mostly re-elect the person in charge than the new and uncertain one. That’s why every change to Facebook triggers the creation of “Bring back the old Facebook”-petitions and that’s why every technological advancement in our history has been deemed the end of the world, be it the emergence of the written word, the invention of the printing press, the railway etc. The funny thing is that we always adapt. It took a lot of years with the written words, still about 50 with the printing press and now only a couple of days with Facebook. Nevermind the music industry which seems to go back to the printing press time frame for adapting to digital.

Change is inevitable. We can resist it as long as we want to, it will always win in the end. Nothing has ever gone back to how it was before. In the long-term we only move forward or stall, there is no reverse gear. So the best solution is to reduce the “pain from struggling against the change”. Here’s what we came up with for how to cope with change.

Stay curious

I can attribute my own success and the success of many of my friends to the fact that we are really curious, trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

Michael Karnjanaprakorn

I am obsessively interested in everything.

Michael Wolff

People feel overwhelmed by information overload, but for us, all this information, insight and inspiration available is a great thing. If there’s one shared thread between us three at Third Wave, than it is to have no boundaries to what seems interesting and relevant. The key is to let go and let serendipity do its work. Trying to know everything is futile but letting the flow of information take you wherever it goes will open the way for all kinds of interesting aspects and opportunities.

Embrace complexity

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.

H.L. Mencken

Embracing complexity is a scarce trait, worth acquiring.

Seth Godin

If you’re curious about everything you begin to comprehend the complexity of things. Everything is connected. Trying to shoebox things is so 20th century. We’ve created too many solutions that never worked because we cut down the problem to what we perceived as the core and by this missed all the subtleties and nuances of the situation. Embracing complexity means to do more big-picture thinking to create a “feeling”, some sort of bigger understanding for the whole situation and than work back down to the level of the problem. It will take more time and much more iterations but it will also create much more sustainable solutions.

Tinker away

One recurring theme in almost all the people that I look at is that they have a lot of hobbies. The innovators are constantly working on three, four or five pet projects — beyond their main job.

Steven B. Johnson

We didn’t sit around a boardroom thinking, here are 10 ideas to build into a company. We like building products, and if it became a business? Great!

Dennis Crowley

If you are curious about everything and embrace complexity, you almost automatically end up at what Steven Johnson describes above as a common threat among innovators. You never work at only one project and you have to try out a lot to understand the complications of it. You have to immerse yourself into it, try it out in all kinds of ways and see how it connects with your other projects. That’s one reason why we just did a conference on the future of cities for example. It helped us to deep dive into everything happening with cities and technologies so that if you ask us now about location-based services or creating a crowdsource-platform for city improvements, we can provide you with a much more informed expertise. We’re already lining up new topics to immerse ourselves into.

So for us, staying curious, embracing complexity and tinkering away is the best approach we’ve found yet to cope with the constant change that’s going on in our world. We can only encourage you stop struggling against the change and look at the possibilities it holds. And if you need some help with that, give us a call or write us an email.

Author: Johannes

Johannes is a strategist and consultant for digital communications. His work is informed by his experience of working with brands like Deutsche Telekom, MTV, Postbank, Maggi and Nike and by his insatiable appetite for finding the bigger patterns behind current developments in technology and science. Holding a diploma in Media System Design, Johannes is a regular speaker at web and marketing conferences like Republica and the Social Media Summit.

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