Friday, March 17, 2006

LNB #004: Change or Die!

One out of nine.

That's the figure quoted in a recent Fast Company magazine article. It described the ratio of people who actually make life-saving changes when told to do so by medical personnel -- the kind of "if you don't stop your health the deteriorate and you'll die." One out of nine people, when faced with the real odds of death did what it took. Interestingly, the chief solutions to heart-related illnesses haven't changed in over 40 years. We all know what to do: get fit, eat a healthy diet, stop smoking, reduce stress, curb drinking. Knowing what to do doesn't give us any better odds of making it if our doc gives us that worried look.


We've even been told that we're hard-wired -- that, as we age, we get more rigid in our thinking making it harder to change. Studies now show that the human brain maintains its "plasticity" -- its ability to take on new challenges and expand its learning -- long into old age. We can even reverse many memory-related deficiencies if we stay intellectually stimulated.

"Change must be small and incremental," some say. When taken into the field of health, one study showed that those participants who were required to make broad, sweeping health changes fared better than another group required only to take one pill a day. After one year, two-thirds of that group had stopped taking their blood pressure control medication altogether while most of the former group (whose health habits were, essentially "nuked") were able to maintain those changes after over 3 years.

Taken into the realm of business, we know that the 5-year success rate of new firms is pretty dismal, hovering at around 15%. Essentially, one out of nine. We also know that having no written plan describing what people want, what we'll do to meet that want, how we'll find those prospects, what we'll charge, how we'll market to them and deliver the product (at the top of the list), and dealing with required resources (money, staff, time) we'll fail. No surprise here. What is surprising is that, knowing all this, businesses continue to fail at that some frightening rate. What's missing?

Like those heart patients, crisis, fear and the cold, hard facts aren't what it takes to motivate us to make the changes we need to make to keep our businesses alive. What does turn the tide is

  • Visionary thinking -- focused on feelings of joy and possibility ratherthan facts, fear and loss. What will life be like if my business grew by15% over expected results? My relationships? My participation in mycommunity?

  • Radical, sweeping, comprehensive shifts in operation with short-termcelebrations of progress. Celebrating business and personal victoriesalong the way keeps us motivated to achieve the broader goals.

  • New, critical supports to help shift company behaviors and lock in new, more effective, business habits. Partner with another staffer or trustedfriend, create an advisory group, or hire a coach or become part of a formalized group.

Producing breakthrough results in our businesses takes breakthrough thinking -- "re-framing". Like him or not, Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential bid was a very successful example of "framing." Clinton, keen to keep his focus on his campaign's core message "the economy," created the mantra "its the economy, stupid" to keep himself on point. Every question asked of him in every interview was filtered through the frame "the economy." Education? The economy. Farming? The economy.

To "change" a habit is, essentially, the work of creating a new one. To do so, we "simply" decide on another result, determine the actions necessary to achieve them and then commit to taking those actions over and over again until that new habit locks itself in. This can take several months to become fully "habituated" and, without support, its easy to fall back into old habits. This isn't a sign of weakness: its simple neurochemistry. The brain just needs to be re-tuned to different actions and different results. Seek support to create sustained change.

Coaching and masterminding are excellent tools that provide you with other ways to view common business practices and produce uncommon results.

If you're interested in seeing how Total Team Solutions can help you re-frame, re-think and produce uncommon results, contacts us to schedule an Complimentary Business Evaluation Session.

Read Fast Company's article: Change or Die

If you're interested in ordering Fast Company, click the image, left, for one of the savviest business magazines on the block!

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