Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncer tainty

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9780399166778: Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncer tainty
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Finding the courage to embrace change and take chances is the only way to succeed.

Business, culture, and competitive landscapes have fundamentally changed, but basic principles and best practices for succeeding and future-proofing both yourself and your organization haven’t. With a mix of compelling stories, research from the social sciences and psychology, and real-world insights, Make Change Work for You shows readers how to reignite their career, rekindle their creativity, and fearlessly innovate their way to success by providing the tools needed to master uncertainty and conquer every challenge they’ll face in life or business.

Make Change Work for You opens with an overview of the most common factors that lead to self-defeating behaviors, including fear of failure, embarrassment, underperformance, rejection, confrontation, isolation, and change itself.

Using a simple four-part model, Steinberg guides readers to understand and better respond to the challenges that change can bring:

Focus: Define the problem and come to understand it objectively.
Engage: Interact with the challenge and try a range of solutions.
Assess: Review the response(s) generated by your tactics.
React: Adjust your strategy accordingly.

And, finally, the book shows readers how to develop the vital personal and professional skills required to triumph in the “new normal” by understanding and engaging in the 10 new habits that highly successful people share:

1. Play the Odds
2. Embrace Tomorrow Today
3. Seek Constant Motion
4. Lead, Don’t Follow
5. Never Stop Learning
6. Create Competitive Advantage
7. Connect the Dots
8. Pick Your Battles
9. Set and Align Your Priorities
10. Always Create Value

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About the Author:

Scott Steinberg is among today’s leading business strategists and strategic innovation consultants, as seen in 600+ outlets, from CNN to Time and The Wall Street Journal. The CEO of management consulting and market research firm TechSavvy Global, he helps clients create value and cultivate competitive advantage on the back of emerging trends. A top-rated keynote speaker, popular author, and futurist, he provides presentations and training workshops at events, meetings and conferences.

Among today’s most-quoted industry experts, as seen by more than one billion people worldwide, Scott’s more than ten-year track record for accurately predicting business and consumer trends has made him a fixture in mainstream media. He has been a featured guest or contributor to programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, ESPN, and MTV, and has been columnist on change and innovation for Fast Company, Rolling Stone, and The Huffington Post.

His recent books include the award-winning Business Expert’s Guidebook and The Crowdfunding Bible.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

Everything Changes

Market-leading energy provider Royal Dutch Shell supplies dozens of countries with more than 3 million barrels of oil and 20 million tons of natural gas each year. It isn’t the first place you’d expect to find leaders starting a fire—let alone purposefully. But Mandar Apte, head of the company’s Empower training program, isn’t just tasked with sparking positive change worldwide. He’s specifically charged with setting executives’ creativity and capacity to innovate ablaze.

Empower classes aren’t grounded in traditional business processes and procedures, though. Instead, they revolve around a simple principle: To succeed in increasingly unpredictable and uncertain environments, we can’t simply remain static. Rather, we must constantly change, adapt, and strive to fan the sparks of innovation.

But doing this is much easier said than done.

In fact, while preparing hundreds of executives to face tomorrow’s challenges, Apte’s team has made some surprising discoveries about the common problems modern professionals face. Rather than a lack of time, money, or manpower, many stem from two unlikely sources, he says. Specifically: a lack of risk tolerance and a resistance to change.

Going into Empower training sessions, Apte just assumes everyone is capable of being an innovator. In today’s hyperkinetic and hypercompetitive world, he argues, we’re all forced to constantly adapt and readapt. So he always begins classes by asking a simple question, What’s keeping you from being more innovative? Often, he finds, the biggest stumbling block is simply our own sense of perspective.

When we reexamine the difficulties that we confront more closely, we often find several obstacles that prevent us from successfully adapting to and overcoming unforeseen hurdles. These barriers to success include fear, anxiety, insecurity, and others’ opinions.

If you’ve ever run up against these barriers in your own life and business, you’re not alone; we all have at one time or another. We all want to reduce stress, be more productive, and better serve our organizations and customers. But to achieve these goals, we must confront the very same issues that Apte outlines, any one or all of which routinely prevent us from realizing our objectives.

Whether we’re speaking about individuals or organizations, our perceptions impact our ability to make sound decisions, our willingness to take risks, and ultimately our performance. And all of these factors have a direct effect on our ability to succeed.

But as Shell’s Empower program teaches, we all hold the keys to effectively adapt with changing times and get ahead more frequently in life and business as well. Change your outlook, and you can change your future. Rather than look outside at shifting times and trends to do so, as we would in traditional problem-solving scenarios, this transformation process starts by taking a deeper look within.

· · ·

It’s no secret that change is all around us, and in business especially it seems that the scope, breadth, and speed of changes taking place today are boundless. This means that throughout your life and organization, the scope, breadth, and speed of changes you should be making to keep up, let alone get ahead, should be equally limitless.

Change in business can take the form of:

  • Unstable economic conditions
  • Unpredictable operating environments
  • Shifting competitive landscapes
  • Changing customer needs and expectations
  • New tools, trends, and techniques
  • Emerging technologies (especially information technologies)
  • New communications systems
  • Evolving best practices
  • Unexpected opportunities and challenges

And that’s just to name a few common varieties.

In effect, this rapidly accelerating rate of change (driven by continued advances in IT and personal communications) has greatly compounded the challenges we face. We now cross paths with a rapidly ballooning number of individuals and engage in numerous interactions and cross-reactions as a result of every action we take. The result is an unprecedented and truly radical degree of uncertainty in professional environments. We’re quickly discovering that the present is growing more unstable and the future is increasingly difficult to predict.

In short, the world of business is a risky place to be, and looking these risks squarely in the eye—then pushing them out of the way—can seem intimidating. But that’s exactly what we must do, even if it means routinely stepping outside the comfort zones we operate in. It’s the only way to continually thrive on both an individual and an organizational level.

Hesitate to change or take smart risks, and no matter how pragmatic we believe ourselves to be, we’re often unwittingly working at cross purposes. When we allow fears and anxieties to color our decisions and doubts to govern our actions, we often tie our own hands and directly inhibit our ability to grow and innovate.

Happily, because all of these shackles are self-imposed, we all have the power to unlock them the moment we elect to do so. Choose to remove emotion from the equation and put fear in the backseat, and you’ll take the first, most powerful step toward future-proofing yourself or your enterprise and begin to tear down the stumbling blocks that stand between you and your ultimate success. Embrace change by taking calculated risks and meaningful action, and you’ll put yourself on the path to regular reinvention—the essence of remaining relevant—and create positive, lasting effects on every level.

Nonetheless, many enterprises and professionals still struggle to cope with change, even as others seem to thrive in turbulent markets. As you’ll soon discover, the secret to leaders’ ongoing success has little to do with individual ability or business environments. Rather, the source of their continued achievements frequently lies in their own willingness to change, grow, and embrace fresh perspectives.

Are you looking to dive headfirst into tomorrow, spark lasting change, and set yourself on the fast-track to becoming future-proof? Step back and calmly study the challenges before you, then take smart action. When you remove worry and doubt from the decision-making process, you may be surprised just how easy it is to sidestep the obstacles.

This book provides a new approach for making things work—in your personal life, your career, and your business. Apply its principles, and you can consistently find success with just a few simple shifts in thinking, even in the most fast-changing and unpredictable environments.

As will become evident throughout this book:

  • Everyone is an innovator.
  • Change is your secret weapon.
  • Disruption drives learning, growth, and success.
  • Relevancy is reinvention.
  • Flexibility makes you future-proof.

Put simply, innovation isn’t hard. In fact, small changes (evolutions) can be every bit as powerful as huge breakthroughs (revolutions). Moreover, the same strategic principles that today’s most-acclaimed strategic innovators use to produce game-changing advancements can be leveraged to help you positively transform your life, business, and career on every level.

When the average working professionals you’ll meet in this book found their careers stalling out or were struggling to make ends meet, they took simple, practical steps that drove them closer to achieving their goals—then repeated them time and again.

And when the many businesses of all sizes profiled in the following pages found that their industry had become more challenging or that competitors were nipping at their heels, they asserted their leadership position by doing the same as well.

Case in point: When Target wanted to boost its profits, it didn’t build more big-box retail outlets. It launched half-size stores in fast-growing urban markets selling half-size packs of paper towels and locally branded merchandise.

When the Danish supermarket SuperBrugsen wanted to differentiate itself and stay competitive in increasingly demanding markets, it simply asked customers what locally branded food products they wanted it to stock.

When medical device manufacturer Medtronic wanted to create growth opportunities, it didn’t double down on more cutting-edge defibrillators. Instead, it partnered with hospitals to open on-site laboratories, then—building on the trust it had gained—grew its new business lines even further by providing these partners with IT, support, and management services.

None of these innovations is outside your reach. None of these companies reinvented the wheel either: As we periodically do with our cars’ tires to achieve better performance, they simply gave themselves a purposeful realignment. Slight changes in strategy or perspective can often make a big difference.

Throughout this book, you’ll learn why courageously embracing change and adapting to shifting environments isn’t just crucial but the only proven recipe for lasting success for individuals (whether your career is skyrocketing or stalling) and businesses (whether your market is booming or becoming increasingly risky) alike.

All of us possess the capacity to change, grow, and exert more positive control over our future and do so by practicing small acts of bravery. It all starts with greater awareness, greater flexibility, and greater ability to take action in the face of doubt or indecision.

In later chapters, you’ll learn several of life’s little secrets:

  • Change isn’t as difficult as it seems.
  • The status quo is no longer a safe bet.
  • Cleverness creates competitive advantage.
  • Different isn’t just good—it’s essential.

But most important, you’ll discover that courage is a characteristic that we can actively cultivate in ourselves, nurture through repeated application, and consistently put to work to help us more frequently and successfully change and innovate.

Take it from master magician Harry Houdini, who, decades ago, mastered the art of bravery by making dozens of daring escapes from sealed tanks of water or submerged coffins.

“My chief task has been to conquer fear,” the illusionist once explained. “The public sees only the thrill of the accomplished trick. They have no conception of the tortuous preliminary self-training that was necessary to conquer fear . . . no one except myself can appreciate how I have to work at this job every single day, never letting up for a moment. I always have on my mind the thought that next year I must do something greater, something more wonderful.”1

The abilities and opportunities you’ll unlock when you find the courage to innovate and make positive changes will appear nothing short of magical as well.

Over the course of this book, you’ll discover just how easy it is to tap into these abilities, and that so-called daredevils and mavericks are secretly neither, being far more risk averse than they are risk-takers.

Troubled by growing uncertainty? Dubious about the future? Deeply concerned with rising levels of competition? Prepare to put these problems behind you.

In the pages that follow, I’ll show you how to rethink risk, reconsider change, and redefine what it means to be fearless . . . and how to future-proof yourself and your enterprise in the process.


Chapter One

What’s Holding You Back?

Twenty-six-year-old Vermonter Melissa Kirmayer Eamer was sick of serving customers clam chowder. After spending five years slinging chow in the restaurant she co-owned with her former husband, she wanted a bigger bite out of life. Every day, Eamer longed for something better. Every day, she felt more stuck.

“I really hit a point where the restaurant business was challenging, but not intellectually challenging,” she says. “It was exhausting, but I felt like I was missing something.”1 In retrospect, she discovered that the absent pieces were simply courage and self-confidence.

She was afraid of change. What if she ruined her life? Her career? Her finances? Eamer felt trapped. She convinced herself that there were too many challenges and the stakes were too high in charting a new professional course. Without relevant contacts and work experience, how could she ever make the shift to a new career? But one day, fed up, she told herself it was now or never: Something had to give. She took a long, hard look in the mirror and asked herself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and “What step can I take today to get me started on my path?” Then she took that step.

Eamer had long been interested in the publishing business. So she sent her résumé to several local firms. None responded. Undeterred by this silence, she changed course, offering to work free for six months. This time, two companies agreed. She picked her favorite and signed up. Working at the restaurant by day and the publishing company by night, she tried not to think too far ahead. “I might have been overwhelmed by the challenges if I let myself think about it too much,” she explains. “Instead, I took this incremental step.”

By the end of the internship, she was hired to a paying position working directly with the CEO, an MBA with impressive business acumen. Inspired, she began studying for the GMAT on top of her two jobs and successfully applied to the University of Michigan’s MBA program. Just one catch: Taking the opportunity meant having to leave the restaurant, the publishing company, the husband, and everything she knew behind.

Faced with a host of common fears—change, insecurity, rejection, and so on—she was understandably troubled. (“It was scary. When my sisters showed up to pack the U-Haul to move . . . I said, ‘Holy crap, what have I done?’”) But that didn’t stop her from moving forward. As Eamer explained, she found calm by focusing on the potential opportunity at hand—what lay ahead, not behind her.

“I’d set up all these little tests,” says Eamer. “If I passed these hurdles, I’d go on to the next. That reinforced my confidence to see if I could take on bigger challenges.”

Up through graduation, and several times since, Eamer has faced challenges that demanded great change and risk. Each time, she had to conquer her fears, expand her comfort zone, and jump with both feet into each challenge.

Today, she’s a technical adviser to consumer business at a large online retailer and has headed up some of its most wildly successful programs; she is also being groomed for senior management. Describing the great leaps of faith she took, Eamer says, “They have made all the difference.”

· · ·

If you want to make a similar difference in your life and business, you too will have to confront common sources of fear, transform uncertainty into opportunity, and take control of your future. And if you happen to lead a team or organization, to consistently effect positive change, you’ll also need to find ways to help others break down the barriers that inhibit their success as well.

As you’ll soon see, getting ahead isn’t about being risk free. Instead, it’s about being risk averse. The dirty secret that many successful organizations and individuals don’t share is that relevance is found in ongo...

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