Change to meet your Needs

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Change or just Die...

Change or Just Die...only remedy keep learning... It's not the same same as 50 cent's, Get Rich or Die tryin... just for the quick catch up the video is below. Do you know, most of us like the fearful copier salespeople who dread disruption to their routines? Neuroscience, a field that has exploded with insight, has a lot more to say about changing people's behavior -- and its findings are guardedly optimistic. Scientists used to believe that the brain became "hardwired" early in life and couldn't change later on. Now researchers such as Dr. Michael Merzenich, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, say that the brain's ability to change -- its "plasticity" -- is lifelong. If we can change, then why don't we? Merzenich has perspective on the issue since he's not only a leading neuroscientist but also an entrepreneur, the founder of two Bay Area startups. Both use PC software to train people to overcome mental disabilities or diseases: Scientific Learning Corp. focuses on children who have trouble learning to read, and Posit Science Corp. is working on ways to prevent, stop, or reverse cognitive decline in older adults.
Merzenich starts by talking about rats. You can train a rat to have a new skill. The rat solves a puzzle, and you give it a food reward. After 100 times, the rat can solve the puzzle flawlessly. After 200 times, it can remember how to solve it for nearly its lifetime. The rat has developed a habit. It can perform the task automatically because its brain has changed. Similarly, a person has thousands of habits -- such as how to use a pen -- that drive lasting changes in the brain. For highly trained specialists, such as professional musicians, the changes actually show up on MRI scans. Flute players, for instance, have especially large representations in their brains in the areas that control the fingers, tongue, and lips, Merzenich says. "They've distorted their brains." Businesspeople, like flutists, are highly trained specialists, and they've distorted their brains, too. An older executive "has powers that a young person walking in the door doesn't have," says Merzenich. He has lots of specialized skills and abilities. A specialist is a hard thing to create, and is valuable for a corporation, obviously, but specialization also instills an inherent "rigidity." The cumulative weight of experience makes it harder to change. How, then, to overcome these factors? Merzenich says the key is keeping up the brain's machinery for learning. "When you're young, almost everything you do is behavior-based learning -- it's an incredibly powerful, plastic period," he says. "What happens that becomes stultifying is you stop learning and you stop the machinery, so it starts dying." Unless you work on it, brain fitness often begins declining at around age 30 for men, a bit later for women. "People mistake being active for continuous learning," Merzenich says. "The machinery is only activated by learning. People think they're leading an interesting life when they haven't learned anything in 20 or 30 years. My suggestion is learn Spanish or the oboe." Meanwhile, the leaders of a company need "a business strategy for continuous mental rejuvenation and new learning," he says. Posit Science has a "fifth-day strategy," meaning that everyone spends one day a week working in a different discipline. Software engineers try their hand at marketing. Designers get involved in business functions. "Everyone needs a new project instead of always being in a bin," Merzenich says. "A fifth-day strategy doesn't sacrifice your core ability but keeps you rejuvenated. In a company, you have to worry about rejuvenation at every level. So ideally you deliberately construct new challenges. For every individual, you need complex new learning. Innovation comes about when people are enabled to use their full brains and intelligence instead of being put in boxes and controlled." What happens if you don't work at mental rejuvenation? Merzenich says that people who live to 85 have a 50-50 chance of being senile. While the issue for heart patients is "change or die," the issue for everyone is "change or lose your mind." Mastering the ability to change isn't just a crucial strategy for business. It's a necessity for health. And it's possibly the one thing that's most worth learning.
Alan Deutschman is a Fast Company senior writer based in San Francisco

14 comments:

Przemek said...

Well, I dont wan't to comment this phenomenon like it is presented. I would pick-up something from my business experience.

A company X was quite successful in "out-of-the box" software sales, they expanded to Hardware sales for PC, L-tops, stand alone Servers etc. - still succeeded, so they went into dedicated solutions - developed/bought one, they succeeded - sold it to one customer, they decided - if we got a S/W, we can provide outsourcing to support it - again - for this one customer they succeeded (boring story - isn't it). And then - they wanted to provide professional consulting services and full process outsourcing - they did more or less well for a year - than - they started to loose staff, then to loose customers, then to loose co-owners and investors. Not going into details - ONLY NUSINESS JUSTIFIED CHANGES WILL SUCCEED. And IF YOU THINK OF A CHANGE,PLEASE THINK TWICE, GET THE BACK_OUT PLAN, AND CONSULT EVERYTHING WITH THESE, THAT WILL OPERATE IT AFTERWARDS.
Conclusion: the company X had got no idea about consulting and just a bit on outsourcing. Their customers were not ready for change of services, and company had got no defined business goals. THEY COULD NOT GET OVER IT IN ANY WAY...

Please take it as a lesson - do not follow X example.

JN said...

Great post!

Thoughts from the top of my head: Are all changes good changes? Is change management as easy as strictly following customer needs or created such?

Joe@123 said...

A neat effort. But, I agree with Przemek. We should put an example from our own experiences, not simply put reproduce an excerpt from some other report. Agreed that changes are a very necessary catalyst for growth. But, the idiom "Customers first" holds no ground in today's everchanging world of technology. We should admit that the customer needs are endless. But as a service provider, we also have to look at the best way that we can serve them with we have right now. If we are really good, as we claim to be, the customer stays. It's good to hear some rappist sing "Change or just die", but holding your own grounds, you can grow slowly, but surely.

Cor Gabriƫls said...

The ability to change is what put us on position 1 in the evolution. It's part of being who we are. But it is not change we should be mastering: being in a continous change mode is most certainly not contributing to your health also. What we should be mastering is detecting the red line that runs through the changes arround us, as each change is a triggered response. Changes do not happen spontaneously, somebody wants them to happen.

Change = Opportunity, fight it and you'll only get the negative side of it.
"Embrace" it, seek its merits, "translate" them to your or your company's situation and you will be able to influence the direction it takes. Anyone, any company, that thinks that change is only for their weaker peers, will in the end draw the short straw. IBM learned that the hard way.

Change is just one of the signals telling you and your company that the surrounding environment is no longer the same, and you should not only adopt, but also adapt.

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Eileen Bonfiglio said...

Hello Dibyendu,

I see your point and think it is a bit on the dramatic side for me. Change is a part of our evolution and we need to make it more palatable to encourage participation and confidence. Change is a difficult concept for human beings, most of us are afraid to changing. Others, like myself, thrive on it, but we are not the majority and must help those who resist to understand the benefit of change in business and life.

Eileen

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Ray Miller said...

I think if you mean change or kill your spirit, perhaps I agree.

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HL Arledge said...

I agree completely.

My wife thinks I'm nuts, because I am constantly buying books on new subjects. In the last year, I've bought books on political campaigns, hypnosis, historic figures and events, and books on artificial intelligence, building blimps, gardening, sky-diving, cooking, and screenwriting.

Why?

My grandparents lived into their 90s, and their memories were incredible. In my teens, I asked my grandmother what their secret was. She insisted that the secret to maintaining a sharp mind was to never stop learning.

I've been determined to follow their model ever since.

Jeanne Heydecker said...

I went to college for Architecture and Graphic Design a LONG time ago, back before Quark Express and AutoCAD were even a gleam in some random engineer's eye. My entire career of on-line marketing didn't even exist back then. Where would I be if I did not embrace change?

The Internet is changing so quickly, we must adapt to the environment or we stop being relevant. This has been happenning in the tech world in the U.S. at least since the mid-90s, when the software development process was morphing from a procedural to iterative structure. The people who were able to think creatively and change methodologies, the ones who had historically wanted to learn new ways to do things, moved ahead, while those COBOL programmers who resisted had to find something else to do (like work for the U.S. Government). After the Y2K projects finished up, they had nowhere to go.

At that time in the tech world, I found that identifying the "laziest" programmer I had, the one that was always asking if someone else had already written code for this function or that, would be the best instrument for change. Typically, these people were more interested in solving a problem rather than writing the same thing over and over again. Right now, with user driven content being one of the largest growing aspects of the web, large groups of content providers are struggling to understand where they fit in the new equation. Where that is, is up to them to decide.

I need people who have a genuine curiosity about life and our industry. I need creative people who can solve problems differently. I need natural autodidacts. These are the people that innately adapt. They can be a quirky bunch to manage but worth their weight in gold for a tech company.

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Vivek Srivastava said...

Change is the only thing which is constant in life. Readiness to change and ability to understand change varies from individual to individual and organization to organization. Managing the pace of change and bringing synchronization between internal and external environment is the real crux of change management.
To successfully manage the change, Organization has to
• Identify the change needs
• Identify the change agents
• Indentify the layers of resistance within your system at different phases of change
• Develop and Implement resistance mitigation plan
• Develop communication strategy
• Identify training needs

Bjorn Vos said...

Make dust or eat dust.

You can learn to change by reacting to the ever changing environment. You can also learn by creating the environment you want and have others learn to adopt it.

Either way, you will learn.

Bjorn Vos

Yves Daoust said...

Life is a subtle mixture of change and stability. You need to balance both, don't you?

- Yves

Kurt Welte said...

I totally agree. I have known quite a few people that were very resistant to change and they all aged prematurely and many have died relatively young. Those that I know that are the oldest are like HL’s grandparents, learning as long as they have breath. I also intend to keep learning. I truly believe that those that stop learning look at learning as a task or a chore to finish, then rest. Those that keep learning view learning as recreation of play. So go to the bookstore and play. Go back to school and learn. And hopefully you will inspire your children and grandchildren to do the same.

Yu Yu Din said...

That's one of my favorite quotes from Ford. Being a third culture kid (TCK) my family moved around a lot so I tend to get anxious when there's no change. It sort of sinked into my career and work culture as I 'grew up' too. I don't know what I'd do if there weren't things to explore like new technology segments, new social networks, new concepts, new ideas. I've always been "an early adopter" and I don't see people of my generation (20s and 30s) living any other way. I think that's why people are so hooked up on Web 2.0. There's something new each and everyday. Either via mergers, buy outs or new concepts for socializing and networking.

So to answer your question, yes change is the heart beat of this new era and companies whether big or small should embrace that. If you're not willing to change you're on your way to becoming a fossil. But of course that doesn't mean that you hop on every band wagon that comes along too. You have to really feel the beat and know what's going on. We're given more choices -- if you don't belong in MySpace, you might belong in Facebook, or Orkut. You just have to know which crowd your customer or client comes from. Only then you can dance to the music.

Martin Thomas said...

Plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose...

We talk about change as if it were something new. There's always been change. You may thing My Space & Facebook Web2.0 etc are pretty whizzy and may be destabilising.

Imagine what the invention of the long bow did or the axel or the discovery that we could make & use fire or cooking or domesticating animals or breeding grass that carries better crops or or or or

There's nothing new in change, not even in the pace of change. Only the fact of global communication and a desire to worry about something!

Adapt or die: smoe things and some entities die out in the evolutionary process. Sad.

But it's ging to happen to us all so stop worrying. You can't change THAT! ;-))

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