“Nobody likes change” – I was told (yet) again the other day by an engineer who didn’t want to accept the fact that he had to adapt his working practices. It seemed that this cliche was reason enough for not doing what we had to do in response to our evolving customer requirements – and that I would drop the matter and, to use another cliche, let sleeping dogs lie.
The truth is of course that change is happening all the time – nothing lasts for ever and those who can adjust to, and embrace, change are the survivors and winners in an increasingly competitive world. Everything’s ephemeral – we’ll all shuffle off this mortal coil sooner or later.
The trouble is that change induces uncertainty and that makes people nervous. Take for example the forthcoming referendum on our membership of the EU. The debate so far from both sides has been dominated by FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – a well known and successful sales technique.
The Remain team are playing the FUD card on the economic front – leaving the EU will plunge the country into a severe depression and leave us all penniless. The Exiteers on the other hand claim that staying in would leave us open to hoards of immigrants that would drive down wages, fill up all the hospital beds and stretch our public services to breaking point.
Either way – they’re both focused on the negative aspects of a negative result for their side – two negatives making a positive. It’s a tried and tested technique in the USA and worked most famously over here during the 1979 election when the Tories put up billboards of a long queue of people with the strapline “Labour’s Not Working” – clearly referencing the strikes of the previous winter’s industrial disputes.
Positive campaigning on behalf of change is difficult to achieve but when it works – it works very well. Take Obama’s message during the 2008 US Presidential election. He campaigned almost exclusively on a message that promised change for the American people and an end to the stereotype politics of the past. It worked (obviously) and he was swept to power winning the largest share of the popular vote since LBJ in 1964. The fact that during the last 8 years he hasn’t got anywhere near delivering against the expectation he set doesn’t detract from the feeling of hope and inspiration he instilled in many people back in ’08.
We all change – like it or not – as the years go by. Some become more liberal whilst most people become less tolerant – I myself have been accused on occasion of being a “Grumpy Old Man”! Either way, the pace of change continues to accelerate and you’ve no choice really but to go along with it. “Ride the Wave” as my surfing brother would say. Either that or drown.
I’ll leave it to you to conclude what happened to the inflexible engineer.