Step Up Change Agents

Dream well. You may find yourself there. -Neal Bushoven

“Companies are people” is a popular expression to celebrate that the engine of a company is the people who work there, and it’s success or failure is built on the collaborative, innovative and actionable power of those people.  But remember, a Company is a kind of legalized fiction – a set of codified relationships between shareholders, employees and customers, bound together by contracts – the value of which is predominantly wrapped up in future deliverables – yet to be fulfilled.  Sure enough there is brand, reputation, and pent-up expectation, but the future employee contribution or innovation, the equity value yet to be delivered to the shareholder, and the product or service value to be delivered to the customer, all make up the promise of a Company.

These are much more manageable deliverables than managing the fickleness of people.  People, on the other hand, are people – and susceptible to having babies, or heart-attacks, or mid-life crises, or jumping to the competition, or opening yoga studios, or whatever else strikes their fancy.  A Company’s ability to first: attract and retain the best and brightest, and then: allow them to collaborate in innovative and actionable activities together, is what comprises all those promises codified in the contracts upon which the Company is based.

So let’s look at the people.  The people are “consumed by more fear-based motivation than I’ve seen in my lifetime” said Robert Reich in a presentation today.  There are 77 million baby-boomers working today who were born between 1946 and 1964 and they are:

  • retiring later because their 401K has evaporated (exaggeration – but diminished indeed)
  • more worried about losing their jobs than any time in extant memory
  • unable to borrow yet more from their home equity against diminished home values
  • trying to escape from existing debt load

The result of all is that fear has become a primary motivating force and change agents are becoming more scarce, and yet more valuable than ever, because bold idea makers are shackled by fear.  The biggest barrier to change is past success.  That’s right, when things are good and products and services are moving along at a nice clip, companies encourage more of the same – more of the past successes to fuel growth.  But what if what worked, doesn’t work any longer?  This is when idiosyncratic change agents are most needed. Now more than ever, change agents can be more effective in innovating and bringing new opportunities and actionable ideas because companies are hungry for emergent successes.

The ability to envision how to do new things effectively is now more valuable than ever.