Graham🐝 Edwards in Leadership, Directors and Executives, Entrepreneurs Consulting Principal • GPEStratagem Sep 15, 2016 · 2 min read · 1.4K

They say they want "different", but do they really?

I heard someone say this the other day... "People say they want a different way of thinking and operating at work, but when it is offered up, it turns out they really don't"

I have also experienced this first hand and want to ponder it for a while - At face value this simply doesn't make much sense, but then again, maybe it does. 

They say they want "different", but do they really?We have been very successful and are at the top of the food chain mostly because we have been able to control our environment; keep the rain off our heads, the wild animals at bay, or build a state-of-the-art process to manage customer orders and ship within 12 hours (guaranteed). We control and bring predictability to things.

We are successful for this control, and this "request for different" simply seems to flies in the face of it. Therein lies the "rub" *. 

This "perceived contradiction" is created as we work hard to bring control and predictability to what we do, and then want to work outside what we have created to bring improvement and growth; all the while putting up roadblocks to prevent it from happening. Examples abound of "the wild project" that could not get support, but with some inventive "skunk works activity"** becomes a big hit that everyone rallies behind. The fact that no one originally wanted it... is forgotten.  

I call this a "perceived contradiction" because this dynamic may seem as much, but will argue it is more of a check and balance to manage success and sustainable growth - Successful and viable businesses need to have systems, processes, operating mechanisms, business rhythms and measures that are all in control or they simply will not be sustainable. 

The coveted new idea or different way of thinking can, and will, play havoc on the way a business is run if not kept in check. 

These roadblocks that arise and push back on a "different way of thinking" are to vet out what is viable and what is not. Simply put, the good will find their way, and the bad will "die on the vine"

When you hear someone say, "They want a different way of thinking" or "They want to do things differently" take this into consideration:

  • They truly mean it.
  • Up front you should know that anything new, different, and "outside the box" will be challenged, dismissed, and you will hear various versions of the word "no".
  • The burden is on the person with something different to "sell it", not for others to "buy it". 
  • Without breaking the law, or the guiding principles of the company, it is "on you" to make it work... this is where that expression "Good People Find a Way" probably came from.
So how do you work through this perceived contradiction to make "different" a reality? 

Success stories abound, so know that it is done all the time, and these are a few things that come to mind to help you on the way:  

  • Be persistent. If you are not willing to be the champion and a loud advocate, it simply was a "passing idea".
  • Not everyone will say "no"; search them out and leverage their voice, skills and funding (if they have it) and build momentum.
  • Just make it happen and prove its success. You know that old adage "It's better to beg for forgiveness, than ask for permission". ***

So good luck with your different ideas and remember... the company is truly a a safe place to vet everything out because when you get into the open market, it is a ruthless, hostile and unforgiving place.


* An idiom derived from how irritating it is for the animal when you rub it's fur the wrong way, 

** A skunk works is a group of people that, in order to achieve unusual results, work on a project in a way that is outside the usual rules.

*** There is no doubt that there is "risk" that comes with this, but anything worth doing, always comes with risk.

Graham🐝 Edwards Sep 23, 2016 · #8

#7 Thanks for comment . I agree leadership is key and I think that leadership is needed in everyone... change is where some of the greatest leaders can be found!!

+1 +1
Donna-Luisa Eversley Sep 20, 2016 · #7

@Graham Edwards I think a lot of folks want to see different results without 'the change' disturbing their equilibrium. Its quite interesting, because disruption is synonymous with change, and that's not necessarily a bad thing if one is prepared. Even when change happens because it affects the status quo it can be seen in a negative light. For change to be embraced a sense of security is needed, and a leader. Great post!

Graham🐝 Edwards Sep 18, 2016 · #6

#5 Thanks for the comment @Deb Lange.

+1 +1

I agree, for the last 20 years at least the quote from Einstein, We can't solve the world from the mindset that created our problems" has been commonplace. Meanwhile most people don't want to reveal their mindset and attempt to see the world with different eyes.
I always say to people in organisations, there is nothing wrong with "Control" , when it creates systems we trust in a respectful way. We couldn't drive on the roads without s system of control with traffic lights etc we wouldn't feel safe in our hospitals without systems of control around safety anx cleanliness etc. However, as you say, when we create skunkworks teams, or within our systems create the freedom for people to say we created this system, but now we can see a better way there is the process of enabling others to emgage, to learn, to take on a new way. To me this is just life and learning. It just is.

+2 +2
Graham🐝 Edwards Sep 17, 2016 · #4

#2 Thanks for the comment @Paul Frank Gilbert. I think your points are spot on for driving effective change, particularly transparency in to the organization as to why.

+2 +2
Graham🐝 Edwards Sep 17, 2016 · #3

#1 Thanks for the comment @Kevin Pashuk and I will definitely read your post!

+1 +1
Paul Frank Gilbert Sep 15, 2016 · #2

I have found that when people want change ... it begins with those people being involved and engaged in determining what the change is and how it is applied and managed. Simply changing things without purposefully and meaningfully engaging your people will not work. Make sure everyone impacted (which should be your entire organization) by change has input before the change is simply announced. And if they want change you cannot give them ... make sure they understand why. Especially if the bottom line is simply a $$ issue.

+1 +1
Kevin Pashuk Sep 15, 2016 · #1

This post did rub me the right way Graham. As someone who has brought a lot of change into organizations, I appreciate the theme here... Everybody seems to want change, but nobody wants TO change. I wrote a post along the same vein a while back, in which I give out some very personal secrets and talk about bringing change into organizations ( )

+1 +1