Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste

Everyone fears change. Humans would rather suffer under terrible conditions than step into the unknown.

This is one of the reasons that it is so challenging to bring innovation to life in organizations. Organizations are made of people – and people primarily fear change.

If your leaders fear change, you might want to look for work elsewhere.

But I digress.

As innovators, we are constantly trying to drive our organizations forward – to help them build a more innovative culture, build more innovative products and services, and change and grow.

Humans do hate change. However, it’s been proven that external, uncontrolled change can push humans to make changes in their own lives.

A doctor can repeatedly tell a human with unhealthy habits to quit and take up healthy habits. Otherwise, they are destined for heart disease or cancer. Likewise, their family and friends can warn them that they are taking years off of their lives with this behavior. But unfortunately, even their significant other may not be able to get them to change.

However, throw in a sudden, unexpected heart attack, a brush with death, and their whole attitude might change. They might quit their unhealthy habits cold turkey and turn a completely new leaf in a second. The sudden disruption has driven them to change. Sure, they might still go back to their old habits, but this disruption has provided them with an opportunity to change.

I used to hate thinking this way. I used to believe that humans should have the ability to change at will. And they do. But they don’t.

As I’ve said before, the past you is different from today’s, and the you of tomorrow is yet again someone different. You can choose to be another person and act differently at any point; You don’t need to continue to maintain a fiction of yourself if you decide not to. But we don’t.

Sometimes this is due to habit, laziness, or the web of interconnections you’ve created over time. It’s much easier to change when you aren’t in a web of people who expect you to be and act a certain way.

However, there is one time in our lives: when we are forced to change. I used to hate the phrase “don’t let a crisis go to waste.” I used to think it was the domain of cowardly people who couldn’t change independently and needed an external force to help them change.

But I’ve had a change of heart. Now I feel that we only change when some disruption allows us to change.

Take COVID, for instance. If people weren’t forced to work from home, would they have realized they could do their jobs without soul-crushing commutes? It’s no wonder that myopic return-to-office policies triggered the Great Resignation.

These folks used the crisis – they didn’t let the crisis go to waste. Sure, it might be morally unappealing to use a horrible crisis like this to trigger change – but it does trigger change. So short of creating your own crisis (which is even less morally justified), how do you help force change?

Use the disruption to create the disruption. Crisis times are ripe for creating innovation. So when a crisis comes along, grab the opportunity to change for the better.