Transformation = Change = Life

Any Transformation, Including Digital Transformation, Requires Embracing Change

There is a scene from the comedy Friends that I remember vividly – Jon Lovitz was the guest star and there was a scene between him and Courtney Cox where he is high on something like pot brownies. He continues to repeat the word “Tartlets” over and over again, and he finally says “The word has lost all meaning for me”. Much the same with the words that we innovators use often – like innovation, disruption and most egregiously, transformation.

Everywhere you look, people use the term transformation like its some kind of magical elixir. If you ask me, transformation is change – and change is life – so transformation really is just life. So when a consultant tells you that they are an expert in transformation, does that mean that they are an expert in life? But I digress.

Transformation is change – change is life – and change is all around us.

Sharks, it’s been said that (although recent evidence discounts this) need to keep moving in order to survive. If they stop moving, stop swimming, they die.

If you listen to health care and wellness professionals today, they say something very similar about humans – ever heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking?” I think it’s true, humans were never physically or mentally designed to sit behind a desk for a huge chunk of their day. Humans were never designed to sit down or even sit still; we were made to walk the world, stopping momentarily to rest and to sleep.

It is only our fairly recently industrialized world which has turned us into these static, unmoving, resistant, hesitant beings.

Interestingly, we’ve lost touch with this primal sense of needing to move, no matter how often we are reminded to do so (Every 50 minutes past the hours, according to my FitBit). Even though we used to thrive on change, we now thrive on consistency and steady state. That is a bad thing.

Most humans seem to resent change and movement. Being immobile for too long is a very bad thing for a human. In the same way, thinking the same thoughts can be detrimental to your mental health.

Another reason why I don’t like using the word transformation is that for those of us in the innovation space, transformation is like the air we breathe – we can see that it’s all around us – but we take it for granted that it will happen. All that we need to do is to prepare for it.

A while back, I was having a conversation with Alistair Schneider of Startups Innovation and he asked me a question about my life goal – what my former colleague Salim Ismail (author of Exponential Organizations) calls an MTP, or a massively transformational purpose. I’ve never really expressed it before, but I immediately said: “Teach people to embrace change, not fear it”.

If transformation = change = life, then my goal is to teach people to not fear life. To think the big thoughts, to make the big changes, to transform themselves and in so doing, their companies.

Even though today’s humans seem to fear change, and embrace the steady state, transformation continues to occur all around them. We need to stop thinking of transformation as a negative thing, which requires reams of high-priced consultants to get through, to something as enjoyable as a light breeze on a hot summers day, or a deep breath of the fresh air after a rain shower.

Transformation = change = life. Most of us fear change, fear transformation, and in turn, fear life. If we embrace change, if we understand that transformation is as integral to life as the air around us, then not only will we be happier, we will have the courage to “go there” when we need to.

We will have the courage to come up with game-changing killer ideas. We will have the courage to come up with that billion dollar idea.

Transformation will go from meaningless to meaningful.