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Change for the Sake of Change

Written by on October 6, 2009

The absolute worst expression I know is "you shouldn't change for the sake of change". Every time I hear that, my blood begins to boil and I get really annoyed. If you shouldn't change for the sake of change, then when should you?

Should you change when you competitors are taking over your market and steal your customers? No, that is too late.

Should you change when you can no longer buy spare parts, or the get material you need? No, same problem.

So when should you change?

Should you change when the market grows to a certain size? Well, yes. But you would be much more successful if you had been the one who changed the market. Apple could have made just another Smartphone, but they decided to create the iPhone and changed the market. Apple could also have decided to simply make an MP3 player, but the integrated the iPod into iTunes and changed the music industry.

Should you change when a specific need arises? That is actually a good one. A lot of successful companies are making fortunes doing just that. The problem with this, however, is that people who say "you shouldn't change for the sake of change" would never see this in time.

Just look at Google. They are currently working on Google Wave, possible the next generation email platform. And you might say that they are merely trying to solve the collaboration problems we have today with email. But they didn't start making it today. They started several years ago.

Back then there was no specific need for the change to happen. It was simple a couple of people who had a vision, so they decided to 'change' something.

Change is the key to staying successful. If you don't change you lose.

Two more reason to change

There are two far more important reasons why you should change.

1: Be a leader

Being successful means being a leader. If you want to be successful on Twitter, then you need to a person that people want to follow. If you want to create a tribe, you need to lead the tribe.

And you cannot be a leader by watching where other people go. You need to be the one who facilitates change.

2: Innovation

Everyone knows that you need to be an innovator to succeed. Companies that do not focus on innovation will eventually lose. Just look at Yahoo! They forgot the concept of innovation (for a while) and started to focus on 'business stability', and look how that turned out.

Microsoft forgot to innovate IE, and suddenly Firefox swooped in. Samsung forgot to innovate and Apple swooped in. The Republican Party forgot to innovate how they connected with their voters, and Obama swooped in and became president.

What does it mean to be an innovator? Well, "innovation" is simply another word for "change". Innovation means changing the status quo... or to use a better phrase "change for the sake of change".

An innovator is one who wakes up every morning and says "today I am going to change something".

Change is the single most important thing that you must do, both as a person and as a company.

Should I change everything all the time?

Changing for the sake of change doesn't mean that you should change everything all the time. That would be silly. It means that you need to change the important parts of you business.

You can divide this into 3 categories:

  1. How you do your work:
    What products you use, how you interact, how you keep up-to-date, your workflow etc.
  2. The market you are in:
    How you sell your product, where you sell your product, how you interact with your customers, how you market your product, the type of product you make and what type of material you use.
  3. Related or future markets:
    E.g. if you are a newspaper, then maybe you should look to build a Digg for professional news, beating Google News at its own game. That's a related market with a huge potential. But you need to innovate, to change, and to take advantage of it.

    Or if you are a car company, then maybe you should not only invent a more fuel efficient car, but invent an entirely new way to move around.

    Or a web company (that traditionally designs websites); maybe you should invent a new way to publish content (like Posterous did).

Please, change for the sake of change.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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