“Minds are like parachutes — they only function when open.” ~Thomas Dewar
We’ve all heard the statement from someone around us when we suggest trying something new: “But we’ve always done it this way!”. I’ll be the first to admit that change can be a difficult and often uncomfortable thing to deal with. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, undertaking a new business venture or a quantum shift in new technologies to keep up with, the world seems to be changing around us at an ever accelerating pace. And sometimes we have a tendency to want to cling to the comfort of the status quo for dear life. That being said, change is inescapable and the faster we learn to adjust to it, whether it be in our personal, professional or civic lives, the easier life becomes.
Through the years I’ve often made the point that organizations and communities are either moving forward or moving backwards as there’s simply no standing in place. In a fast changing world cities and businesses that are adaptable to change are thriving while those that continue to adhere to the status quo while being driven by conventional wisdom simply aren’t. Change is happening all around us and our businesses and communities can either embrace it, adapt to and plan for it, or ultimately get run over by it.
An example I’ve often used regarding adapting to change on the fly is the impact social networking, in its infancy when I was first elected mayor of Augusta in 2005, has had on the world of politics. From having the power to sway elections or to lead to political scandal when not used properly, in just a few short years social networking became a way of life in politics with citizens simply expecting their elected officials to have an online presence. Imagine the expense that goes into handling political Twitter and Facebook accounts, an expense and an avenue for information exchange politicians didn’t have to concern themselves with only a decade ago. We have yet to see what new technologies will impact both politics and society as a whole in the coming decade, but we can all rest assured that there’s more change on the horizon.
When I first announced I was running for mayor, the conventional wisdom of people in the know said that I wouldn’t get six percent of the vote. However, my very simplistic reasoning was that if people were offered an alternative to politics as usual they’d choose the alternative. Through three successful runs for office, I offered an alternative to negative politics by staying positive while trying to always keep it to the high ground. Fortunately for me, and hopefully for the city as well, people did support the alternative while embracing change through the process. Had voters clung to the status quo my story would have had a very different ending.
In the end change is inevitable and life is always going to throw us all curve balls. Often times in life success or failure is determined simply by our willingness to embrace change and move beyond conventional wisdom while we learn to hit those curve balls in the process.