Change, particularly as it relates to the personal and professional environment of mankind, has never been more dramatic and rampant. Rapid, radical change is everywhere. Even though it is almost inconceivable to imagine, change is increasing in virtually every area of our personal and professional lives. Rampant, rapid, radical change is not an overstatement.
One of the most priceless characteristics and attributes a man or woman can develop, improve and employ, particularly during rampant, rapid, radical change, is flexibility and adaptability.
Machiavelli is credited with writing, “For this is the tragedy of man – circumstances change, but he doesn’t.”
Inflexibility is indeed… a very crippling, devastating and lethal disease! Much like high blood pressure, millions of individuals and organizations are afflicted but don’t know it, or won’t acknowledge and deal with it!
In Commandment Two of the book entitled The Ten Commandments for Business Failure, Donald Keough does an outstanding job of describing the stories and circumstances of many well known individuals and companies who clearly followed Commandment Two for Business Failure… Be Inflexible. Each of these individuals and companies, by virtue of their actions, fell into a dreadful trap described by Yogi Berra… “I’m in favor of leaving the status quo the way it is.”
Some of the individuals and companies described in Commandment Two came to their senses and changed their ways before it was too late. Others didn’t. Keough describes part of the fascinating history and evolution of The Coco-Cola Company as follows:
- The six-and-a-half-ounce bottle was so entrenched that many did not see any other packaging possibilities
- They were fixed in the past and would not budge
- Our bottler system was successful but antiquated
- By being inflexible without realizing it, the Coca-Cola bottlers were slowly weakening the system that was, in fact, their lifeblood
- If we didn’t change things we were all committing corporate suicide
I particularly like the analogy Keough uses when describing IBM during the very profitable “mainframe” days. “It was like IBM management was standing on the bank of a river. The reality was that the executives at IBM were too busy looking downstream, happily watching those beautiful, profitable mainframes floating down the river and around the world. History is downstream – the future is upstream.”
You and I hear and read it virtually every day. The question is asked or implied… “How does one become successful?” One excellent answer, in my opinion, is as follows:
Be more flexible… be more open to adaptation… welcome and leverage change rather than resisting it… follow your instincts, build on your strengths and passions… but whatever you do… become the best of which you are capable… and that mandates BEING MORE FLEXIBLE!
Memorize, internalize and frequently examine your life and your actions relative to this great truth from Donald Keough… “When the conditions around you change, remain inflexible. Keep on keeping on. Stand firm. You will fail.”
History is downstream – the future is upstream! You and I have to be somewhere… we have no choice. Will it be downstream… or upstream… or standing on the river bank watching others and the world go by? By far, the vast majority of all people are downstream or firmly planted on the perceived protection of the river bank.
As for me, I choose upstream where imperfect but highly flexible people like Steve Jobs and companies like Apple live, innovate, adapt, remain highly flexible… and succeed far beyond the expectations of those downstream or on the river bank!
History is downstream – the future is upstream! Call me… let’s have lunch and make something happen – upstream!