Dave Kerpen | Make Change Work For You
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Make Change Work For You

Make Change Work For You

If it ever seems like your daily routine is anything but routine, and your topsy-turvy work schedule has got your head spinning, rest assured, you’re not alone.

We live in a world of constant change and disruption, according to professional speaker and futurist Scott Steinberg, author of the new book Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty. So much for the status quo, he argues:

In a world of constant change, finding the courage to embrace change and take chances is the only way to succeed – and that means learning to take more risks.”

(Not the first piece of professional advice that may naturally come to mind today, let alone if you’re a successful business or executive.) Curious to learn more about the theory, I spoke with Scott to get his take on what it takes to compete and stay ahead of the curve today – and what new success skills leaders need to thrive in today’s fast-paced, highly-unpredictable business world.

Q: Change is constant these days – how can working professionals and organizations succeed in such unpredictable environments?

To succeed in unpredictable environments, you’ve got to find the courage to take chances. In uncertain times, everyone wants to be risk-free. Instead, to get ahead and/or create competitive advantage, you should be risk-averse—i.e. recognize that change is coming, and make smart, calculated, and cost-affordable bets that can help you gain the insights, talents or capabilities today that will be in-demand tomorrow. Whatever your goal is, pick a portfolio of promising growth opportunities to pursue—launch a new product line or re-launch an existing one; attend night school or take online computer programming courses—and start pursuing them immediately. Just don’t sit still while times, trends and competitors are also evolving. Staying ahead of the curve is easier than it sounds, as long as you’re staying in constant motion.

Q: We live in a fast-moving and highly disruptive world today. What can people do to future-proof themselves?

Be courageous. Rather than wait for opportunities to find you, seek them out. Instead of exercising the same skills every day at work, specifically seek out the education, training and experience today that you’ll need to succeed in the future. Speak up, volunteer, and take action – constantly push your creative thinking abilities and comfort zone. Encourage yourself to learn, grow and take on more leadership and responsibility. Look for opportunities to pounce on, problems to fix, and promising projects to volunteer for. Think about what you need to do right here, right now today to get to where you’d like to be tomorrow. Then do it. The more promising new options and avenues you pursue, the more chances you’ll create to put yourself in fortune’s sights.

Q: What would it surprise most people and businesses to learn about what it takes to get ahead in life and business?

The fact that we’re all capable of successfully innovating our way to the top – and all it takes is one simple shift in mindset to do so. Research shows the leading barrier to ongoing business success isn’t time, money, or resources: It’s resistance to change, and lack of risk tolerance. As fast-moving and unpredictable as today’s world is though, we’re all forced to adapt on a daily basis. Haven’t taken a good look at your shifting schedule or priorities lately? Surprise – chances are, you’re successfully changing and innovating every day already. If everyone is capable of innovating, the only thing stopping you from getting ahead consistently is your own sense of perspective. As we discovered, fear comes in seven flavors. Learn to conquer them, and you’ll soon find out – the possibilities are endless.

Q: What different types of fear did you discover – and how do they affect us?

When we’re frightened to make mistakes, step out of our comfort zone, and take chances, it directly affects our on-the-job performance. So fear can exert a powerful force over the decisions that we make and risks that we are willing to take. The seven types of fear I found that we face include:

1. Failure. The possibility of being unable to successfully achieve a goal or complete a task set by yourself or others.

2. Embarrassment. The shame and self-consciousness felt when one feels humiliated, unable to live up to expectations, or socially conform.

3. Underperformance. Performing at a level that you or others believe to be less than adequate, or not reflective of your full potential.

4. Rejection. When you, your company, or the products or services you represent are refused, turned away, or avoided by others.

5. Change and Uncertainty. The process of acting or reacting differently—and the discomfort that accompanies these shifts or surrounding risks and uncertainties.

6. Confrontation. Having a negative or event hostile personal or professional interaction with others.

7. Isolation. The feeling of being alone or left to operate solo without others’ support.

Q: You argue that the ability to find courage is among the most important new success skills today – why so?

The research is staggering: Organizations like Amazon and Google create competitive advantage by consistently experimenting with and learning from new ideas. Individuals are proven to succeed more frequently by thinking fast on their feet and resiliently forging ahead despite setbacks, not possessing greater IQ or inborn talent. Constant, ongoing change and evolution seem to be crucial ingredients for both personal and professional success, and with a little strategic thinking and forethought, anyone can make them work in their favor. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you’re persistent and open-minded.

Q: What’s one simple, practical piece of advice you hope people take away from Make Change Work for You?

Innovation isn’t rocket science. I spoke with dozens of experts and authorities for book including leading executives, entrepreneurs, pop culture icons, and more: The most common pieces of advice for success in life and business they give are “don’t be afraid to fail,” “think positive,” “take action,” “learn and improve from your efforts.” You don’t need legions of case studies, journals, whitepapers, etc. to transform a business, transform a life, or transform a career – you just need to change your mindset. Study after study shows that attributes that anyone can learn and possess like improvisation, communications, strategy and resilience are key to success – nothing more, nothing less. In other words, anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

Q: How many people are aware of this, and are we doing enough to educate people about what it takes to succeed in the modern world?

We live in a world that celebrates entrepreneurs and risk-takers like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. But very few schools seem to be training future generations to practice the qualifies they posses, or providing education in vital modern life skills like dynamic decision making, entrepreneurship, and problem-solving. And this is happening even as the traditional system for professional advancement is crumbling and competitive environment getting tougher. Businesses, schools, and even parent’s opinions don’t seem to have adapted to match the new reality. I hope that Make Change Work for You gives students a deeper look into what they need to succeed: In many ways, this isn’t a book – it’s a system for taking back control of your future, and giving yourself a fighting chance.

Now it’s your turn: What do you think about the questions above? How do you make change work in your favor? Please tell me in the comments section below, and please share this post with your network, so that we can all make change work in our favor!

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