Books with no relationship to business are often best in provoking the lateral thought to tackle stale problems with fresh insight. One that has been particularly revealing is Oliver Burkeman’s ‘HELP!', a dry and (deliciously) cynical look at the self-help industry’s claims of instantaneous and magical transformation. ‘Change your life in 30 days / ninety minutes (insert unrealistic time period)’ and the ‘Power of now / acceptance / smashing fear, or whatever miracle cure that can be couched in positive psychology and peddled for £12.99. His conclusion: that amongst the voluminous crap there is some very useful advice worth experimenting with, and if found personally suitable, integrating into your life.
Where the real nugget lies is with the nature of implementation. Change is largely misconceived as a static point of perfection. This dooms the very pursuit to failure, not to mention the ironic stress and anxiety that comes with implementing a ‘radical’ system designed to induce calm! Burkeman instead advocates incremental implementation, with the expectation of modest gains and minor setbacks along the way. Perspective and realism are the order of the day.
Brands can learn a lot from this simple conclusion, for they are often as guilty as the self-help gluttons, latching onto the management guru's latest ‘ULTIMATE ANSWER’ in the hope of deliverance. The problem with these instant solutions lies both with the myth that there is one definitive answer, and the naive assumption that it can be easily implemented upon arrival.
We crave the ultimate answer. We want to buy an off the shelf solution to our problems and for it to be wrapped in a corporate bow. But business is hard work and all a process can do is hang a framework around your pursuit from A to B, guiding you to achieve in the most efficient manner. While design thinking may frame an intangible creative process and the balanced scorecard ensuring you’re meeting metrics, it does not abdicate original and deliberative effort. Nothing saves you from having to get up every morning and achieve results within a complex and high contexutalised set of challenges.
The second part of the problem lies with integration. It’s incredibly difficult to change behaviour on an individual level, let alone within a corporate setting. What was assumed last week with zest often returns to the familiar way of doing things. The return is not an immediate switch, but more the outcome of an internal wrestling match between your best intention and your base instincts. It’s only a matter of time before a mild form of mental exhaustion sets in and will power buckles to the might of routine.
Real change can can only come from taking the knocks and recommitting again with gusto. Yes it's complex, messy, and full of false dawns, but it's also laced with the opportunity for ever increasing gains that bring you closer to the compelling vision. Incrementalism seems the uncool brother of flashy innovation with its leaps and bounds but not when pursued the way nature intended. Real innovation is incremental. It is a live, playful, thoroughly normal, and everyday concept amongst all members of an organisation. It's about taking on board new ways of doing things and leading by example on an individual level. It's about cultivating a love for your work and a natural sense of curiosity at what can be achieved moving forward.
Personal and business happiness are one and the same. There is no easy answer and no instant deliverance. Just a process that gets better and better with ongoing commitment.Tweet
- Brand management
Corporate social responsibility
HR & Recruitment
Just for fun