How to Think Differently In a Rapidly Changing Culture

Posted by Jenni Catron on Oct 20, 2021 5:00:00 AM

You don’t need to be convinced that our world is constantly changing.  It feels like we’re navigating endless change.


Some of you are the early adopters pushing us to consider new ideas and new technologies.  Others of you are the late adopters concerned about whether all these changes are a good thing or not. 


To be candid, I’m not an expert in innovation.  The Law of the Diffusion of Innovation is a theory that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread (Wikipedia). It outlines different categories people land in related to their propensity to adopt or resist change. I usually land among the early majority.  I’m not likely to be an innovator and I’m rarely a true early adopter.  


With a strong case and some peer pressure, I will typically adapt when it seems like that’s the trajectory of the masses.  Afterall as an achiever I certainly don’t want to be left behind.  


So I won’t attempt to wow you with my knowledge of innovation or even convince you that you need to be innovative.  I want to challenge how you think and how you lead when it comes to change.  Most of you sit in one of two seats within your organization:


  1. You’re an innovator or early adopter who is eager to use new ideas and new technology effectively.  You get frustrated when your ideas aren’t eagerly received and implemented.  You feel like your organization is lagging behind and it frustrates you.

  2. Others of you are the leaders in your organization.  You are likely somewhere in the early or late majority and more importantly, you spend your time with customers or church members who are most likely in the late majority and even the laggards.  (By the way, the laggards, are typically the smallest percentage but the most vocal of the groups.) You’re the one who gets peppered with questions about why we need to change things.    


I want to equip you with 3 perspective shifts you can make that will help you lead your organization to engage change in ways that enable you to move your mission forward.


As John Maxwell has often said, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”  How we as leaders lead through change will make all the difference in how it’s received.


The first perspective shift I want you to consider: 


1) From Being Stuck to Being Curious


Before you tell me you’re not stuck let me ask you a few questions.  Tea or coffee?  Apple or PC?  Coke or Pepsi? We all have preferences and if and when you double-down on your preferences you have the potential to be stuck.  Do you drive the same route to work every day?  Do you eat the same thing for breakfast?  If you have a predictable routine you might be stuck.  Now, I’m not saying that preferences or routines are bad.  I’m just bringing them to your attention to help you see that you’re more prone to getting stuck than you might want to believe.  We like the comfortable and familiar.  That’s not all bad.  But as leaders, we must be aware when we are stuck in the comfortable and familiar rather than being curious about the unknown.


For those of you who are innovators, this comes a bit more naturally to you.  You are more inclined to seek out new and innovative ideas.  You are more energized by opportunities.  You are more naturally curious.  What I want you to recognize is that the majority of people, the majority of the people you serve, and likely your leaders are not innovators like you.  Where you get stuck is in being frustrated that others don’t get it.  You need to become curious and understanding of the fact that others don’t embrace new ideas as quickly as you do. They won’t see a new idea or opportunity with the same sense of enthusiasm.  Understanding this will help you be more patient in casting the vision to them and helping them understand how new ideas can be helpful to the mission.  Be patient and help others cultivate curiosity.


For those of you who fall in the majority, I want to challenge you to be more curious.  Rather than having fixed ideas about what works/what doesn’t, ask questions and learn more from your innovators. 


I really want to encourage you to move from being stuck to being curious.  Realize when you are set in your ways and when you need to be curious about new opportunities. 

2) From Reactive to Proactive


Another shift that is helpful to us especially in engaging change is to move from being reactive to becoming more proactive.  This is a leadership perspective shift that transcends all that we do.  


With an understanding of how slow people are to accept change, we must take responsibility as leaders to proactively lead them through change.  Oftentimes we incorporate new initiatives without thinking through how others will receive them and react to them.  To lead them well in accepting the new, we must be proactive.  


Think about it for a minute.  If you’re launching a new initiative or a new product your team has spent months thinking about it, budgeting for it, designing it, and launching it.  You have spent considerable time getting comfortable with the new thing.  It’s not foreign to you.  But for the people you serve, it’s new. It’s different and they haven’t had time to absorb it.  We expect resounding applause for this wonderful new initiative and what we hear is grumbles about what’s changed.  We find ourselves reacting to every criticism and start to believe that people just don’t like change.  


In reality, they didn’t have time to adjust.  This is where as leaders we need to think more proactively in leading people to new initiatives and ideas.  How could you have invited more people into the designing and planning?  How could you have prepared them for the transition from the old to the new?  How could you get ahead of the criticism instead of reacting to it?  


Really think through how you can more proactively prepare people.  What will this feel like to them?  How can you prepare them?  What questions will they have?  The more proactive you are the less reactive you’ll need to be. 


3) Pointing Fingers to Taking Ownership


And the third shift I want you to consider making is from pointing fingers to taking ownership.  All of us can have a tendency to point fingers and blame others when things are difficult or challenging.  The innovators point fingers at the majority who are slow to embrace new ideas or technology.  The majority point fingers at the innovators for disrupting their world.  Leaders take ownership and wherever you sit in your organization we need you to think like a leader and take ownership. 


The best question I can challenge you to ask is “What Can I Do?”  I might not be able to change things overnight but what can I do?  If you see opportunities for your organization to engage in a new initiative, what one step can you take that would help people get more comfortable with the ideas?  Perhaps the step is as simple as assembling a group of people from all ages and stages of life to hear their ideas and to have a conversation about how this idea can further your mission. 


When we choose to shift our perspective we think differently and we lead differently.  And this shift in perspective opens up ideas, opens up conversation, and opens up doors.  


I hope you’ll consider these shifts:

  1. From stuck to curious

  2. From reactive to proactive

  3. From pointing fingers to taking ownership


We have the amazing privilege of leadership.  Leadership is a sacred opportunity to change and affect the lives of others.  Let’s do that with great care and intentionality.  Think differently to lead better!

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Topics: Leadership, Leading Change, self leadership, Extraordinary Leadership, change

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