Friday, July 13, 2007

Fridays @ Work: Change or Stay the Same?

Let me posit a hypothetical.

In this hypothetical workplace, Employee R is an innovative thinker. She is always looking to add efficiency, creativity, and design excellence to everything her company does. However, she is thwarted regularly by management types who say that change in certain areas is impossible because the inefficient behavior comes from On High.

Now, Ms. R can be practical. Rome wasn't built in a day, and various aphorisms. However, in this case the management seems to her to be becoming apologists for bad behavior On High. Is it dangerous politically for her to buck the system? Would it be better to put up, shut up, and move on when the time is right?

These questions bring up the deeper issue of the constant struggle between the Old Guard and the Younglings. For the Old Guard, it may be nice to change with the times and benefit from leaps in technology, but it is hard for some to give up WordPerfect 3.0 for which you know the key combos so well, triplicate forms, and broken design cycles. For Younglings, it may be great to innovate, but you have to live with the consequences of your good idea. The effort of forcing people to change can be exhausting, and can cause ill will.

The only truth here is this: changing or remaining the same are both active pursuits. They both have consequences. The balance of how much remains the same and how much changes should be a conscious decision, and our emotional attachments to certain behaviors (whether it is always to use the old way, or to always use the new way) should be out in the open and considered. There is value to every way, but the approach can make or break the solution.

I can't wait until Younglings drive me crazy with their incessant pleading to change from physical keyboards to holographic ones. This is my challenge to the future.

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