We like to believe that it is a leader’s will and acts that bring change to life, but most of the time is not the case. It is the people and the culture they make up who make change a reality. To drive change and make it easier to welcome it helps to focus on the elements of change that strengthen the existing identity.
Few other business people have affected our lives on a day-to-day basis more than Steve Jobs. He had the ability to rethink tools and let go of the status quo, while retaining the strength to cling to certain values with a strong sense of identity. He is usually given all the credit for Apple’s genius and success.
The reality was very different. Very often leaders are overrated followers. Though the iPhone is what revived Apple, Jobs was dead-set against the mobile phone category. His employees had a vision for it, and it was their ability to change his mind that really revived Apple.
In 2004, a small group of engineers, designers, and marketers pitched Jobs on turning their hit product, the iPod, into a phone. “Why the f@*K would we want to do that?” Jobs allegedly snapped. “That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”
The team had recognized that mobile phones were starting to feature the ability to play music and had already started researching it, but Jobs was worried about cannibalizing Apple’s thriving iPod business. He hated cell-phone companies and didn’t want to design products within the constraints that carriers imposed. Together they had to figure out how to persuade Jobs to buy into this idea without getting into an overheated discussion about it.
One of the best ways to get people to change their minds is to reinforce what will stay the same. Knowing that Steve Jobs was big on culture and values, the team re-positioned their arguments and ideas to honour their culture. They assured him that they weren’t trying to turn Apple into a phone company, but it would remain a Think Different company that makes the best tools for creative individuals. They could see a smartphone manifesting the Apple brand identity. Apple already put 20 thousand songs in your pocket, so why wouldn’t they add a phone? As Adam Grant so beautifully states, they needed to rethink their technology, but they could preserve and honor their DNA.
After six months of discussion, Jobs finally relented and gave his blessing. Just four years after it launched, the iPhone accounted for half of Apple’s revenue.
With bosses and employees alike, people welcome change more when you honour their identity and culture. Visions for change are more welcoming when they include visions of continuity. When people are resistant to change, it helps to reinforce what will stay the same.
Innate Motion, as a change facilitator, knows how important it is to identify a company’s culture in order to help people welcome change. So we developed an assessment tool to do so. The tool lets people write short stories about: (1) how they want to contribute to the organization, (2) how they see and experience the values of the organization, and (3) how they define their organization’s capabilities and expertise.
By understanding the identity of an organization we can shape the change process in a way that aligns with the culture and values and makes it easier to welcome.
By Christophe Fauconnier, co-written with Moniek Tersmette and Megan Pratt