Change, like a certain scatological reference, happens. You can’t prevent it. You may not even be able to delay it. That means you have two choices: adapt or stagnate.
The market will always find room to accommodate those who stick to their guns and refuse to change. After all, one can still find buggy whips, even though society has long since moved to automotive transportation. However, one cannot find buggy whips sold on every street corner. They’ve become a niche item. Don’t change, and your business becomes a niche industry or service.
Adaptation translates into survival for most businesses. When the personal computer finally became an affordable and feasible piece of desktop equipment in the 1980s, business migrated in droves. Try to find an office now that doesn’t have a computer on every desk.
What’s the next change?
Consultant Michael Hyatt comments, “Pundits, consultants, and strategists are always trying to forecast what’s coming down the pike. … It’s impossible to miss predictions about automation, the freelance economy, Big Data, and AI in our social media feeds and favorite news sources.” Regardless of what changes affect your business and your future, the important question “is whether you see possible changes as threats or opportunities.”
In Huffington Post, Jacob Morgan speaks to the three things everyone can do to adapt to change and make the best of the opportunities it presents: “1. leverage online education platforms; 2. use social channels and create filters to stay on top of current and relevant information; 3. participate in communities that are relevant to your interests and passions.”
The Harvard Business Review takes a somewhat different angle in its advice to stay relevant. Writing for the magazine, Pat Wadors reports that university career centers commonly ask the wrong question about how they can best prepare their students for the “real world.” Wadors notes that’s the wrong question. The ability to adapt and take advantage of change doesn’t rely upon “learning a set of skills and then being ‘prepared’ for life. It’s about learning to continuously learn over the course of your whole career.”
That attitude, unfortunately, is a hard sell, particularly in a market wherein employers with jobs to fill complain they can’t find applicants with the right skill sets. Perhaps what they should seek are applicants with the right attitudes, applicants who want to learn and are committed to ongoing learning and improving their skills. These applicants will embrace change and evolve with it. Businesses with such adaptable employees and which invest in continual education and training for their employees will not only survive, but thrive, in an era of rapid change.
As they say in finance, past performance does not indicate future performance. Business in general must adopt that perspective, because growth only happens through evolution to meet the needs of a constantly changing, dynamic business climate. Such evolution occurs only when employees are offered feasible opportunity to learn and adapt. Investment in your employees not only shows you care about their futures, but also helps to better position your business for future success because they’ll be more likely to stay with the company and use those new skills for the company.