A quick scan of popular titles in the change management space will give you a range of articles, many aligned around the common theme of managing through change or preparing for change. Periodically, you will find a title or theme focused more on leading through change, but more often than not, these articles and thought pieces tend to speak about the concept as though it were a static point in time.

Increasingly I believe that to take such a perspective on change undermines the reality, the responsibility and the rewards of change.

The Reality

Change is a constant. To quote the mysterious Man in Black from ‘The Princess Bride’, “anyone who says differently is selling something”. If we begin by preparing organizations and managers with the mindset that change is finite, static or something to be avoided, we set them up for ultimate failure. There is more change and disruption coming in the next five years than has occurred in the last 50. Embrace it. We need to change our perspective from seeing threats to seeing opportunities. It may seem minor, but it fundamentally shifts the emotional and rational responses that organizations and people have to the reality of change.

The Responsibility

Facing change appropriately comes with a fair amount of responsibility. What do I mean? In such a situation, the first step is to understand what is driving the change. The changes you are witnessing are fundamentally driven by objective, data-driven, grounded-in consumer motivations, and they are shifting your industry, your retailer landscape, your supply chain and your competitive realities.

Consider for a moment the retail industry.  A cursory review of the retail landscape over the last five years yields a laundry list of bankruptcies, acquisitions, store closings … but also new growth and new business models.  Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, or Nordstrom’s recent announcement of a new store format that is a fraction of the size, and doesn’t sell clothes!

These changes are bringing lower food prices, greater availability, and a more customized approach to clothes shopping via personal shoppers.  They are also addressing fundamental shifts in customer behavior, mindsets and motivations regarding value, convenience and the role that traditional brick and mortar retailers play in their lives.  It is the responsibility of all to take note of the lessons.

Step two? Take the time to disaggregate the piece parts to truly understand what your organization or brand can impact and change, and with what you should align. Ask questions like: What consumers hold the majority of the profit, the profit potential and future growth? Who are the brand or category enthusiasts who will be your primary source of innovation, your life-line, as you forge fearlessly ahead into your future?

And finally, be proactive in looking for these signs in the future. In the same way Anheuser-Busch observed implications of the growing “sweet palate” for the beer industry and launched Bud Light Lime, or how Wheat Thins recognized clearly the threat of the gluten-free lifestyle to a wheat-based product line and launched an entirely new product line – minus the wheat.  Again, the important nuance here is to change the conversation and behaviors from reactive to proactive.

As two former colleagues of mine, Taddy Hall and Eddie Yoon, were fond of saying, ‘there is a big difference between noting ‘that’s weird’ vs ‘that’s funny’.  In both cases businessmen and women are noting obvious shifts in consumer decisions and behaviors that have the ability to materially impact their businesses.  Important!  But, as they note in their HBR Blog on the topic, the heart of ‘that’s funny’ is one of curiosity, of unlocking of possibilities and of learning and thinking differently about the future vs the past.  The heart of ‘that’s weird’ rest somewhere between judgment and defensiveness… hardly a place from which to source personal growth, and never a place from which to source professional/business growth.

The Reward

To those organizations that can embrace the changes in the marketplace, and indeed lead the changes in the marketplace, significant financial reward awaits. The truth is that change propels organizations (like people) to greater things, new skills sets and new opportunities. With the change in your organization’s conversation away from “managing through” to “embracing and reveling in the new possibilities change brings” comes a new way of thinking and new innovations, new products and new categories.

Getting to that place begins with changing the conversation internally. It’s really that simple.