"... expose ourselves to the winds of change."

Recently I was skimming a number of Andy Grove* quotes from his book "Only the Paranoid Survive" and kept coming back to this quote:

“The person who is the star of a previous era is often the last one to adapt to change, the last one to yield to logic of a strategic inflection point** and tends to fall harder than most.” 

(My interpretation - Do not assume that what has made you a star in the past will make you one in the future... because it may not - Forever search out how to do things differently and change with ever evolving situations.)

I also liked this quote:

“As we throw ourselves into raw actions, our senses and instincts will rapidly be honed again”

(My Interpretation -  Just put yourself out there in new situations and do it - you will quickly start making things happen and will get better as you go.)

And this:

“The ability to recognize that the winds have shifted and to take appropriate action before you wreck your boat is crucial to the future of an enterprise”

(My interpretation - Be aware of what is going on around you, be curious and don't dismiss the facts until it's too late to do anything.)

And this one:   

“Admitting that you need to learn something new is always difficult. It is even harder if you are a senior manager who is accustomed to the automatic deference which people accord you owing to your position. But if you don’t fight it, that very deference may become a wall that isolates you from learning new things. It all takes self-discipline.”

(My interpretation - Pride and Arrogance will prevent you from learning, growing and continuing your success.)

There was this one too:

“Strategic change doesn't just start at the top. It starts with your calendar”

(My interpretation - Stop talking about change, write it down and do something.)

And finally this one: 

“The Lesson is, we all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change”

(No interpretation)


Andrew Stephen "Andy" Grove (born András István Gróf, 2 September 1936) is a Hungarian-born American businessman, engineer, and author. He is a science pioneer in the semiconductor industry. He escaped from Communist-controlled Hungary at the age of 20 and moved to the United States where he finished his education. He later became CEO of Intel and helped transform the company into the world's largest manufacturer of semiconductors.

As a result of his work at Intel, and from his books and professional articles, Grove had a considerable influence on the management of modern electronics manufacturing industries worldwide. He has been called the "guy who drove the growth phase" of Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs, when he was considering returning to be Apple's CEO, called Grove, who was someone he "idolized," for his personal advice. One source notes that by his accomplishments at Intel alone, he "merits a place alongside the great business leaders of the 20th century. (Wikipedia)

** A strategic inflection point can be defined as the time of transition of company's (or person's) competitive position that requires the company (or person) to change its (their) current path and adapt to the new situation, or risk declining profits (well being).

Change and Adaption*

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I thought I would start with this quote by Gaius Petronius Arbiter... he was a courtier in the court of the Roman Emperor Nero and died in 66 A.D. by his own hand. It turns out that there is no actual proof that he ever said or wrote this, but it is such a great quote we will just take the Internet at face value. It goes like this:

Petronius Arbiter - the man who may or may not have uttered the quote

Petronius Arbiter - the man who may or may not have uttered the quote

"We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress
while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."  

Anyone who has ever been on a team or in an organization will love this quote, no matter who said it. We all have been in this very situation where there is change going on for the sake of change, leaving us no further ahead (but exhausted). - That new leader who has come into an organization and has driven change to make his or her mark or that leader who cannot endure the pressure as they wait for a plan to get some traction - What Petronius says, does happen. But I do think we should also appreciate that the world, life and the universe is always changing and a vast majority of the so called "re-organizing" is the result of trying to adapt to that ongoing change, and not so much the result of a personal agenda.

Change for change's sake goes on, as well as the normal flow of change though the ongoing progress of things; be it technological change, cultural change, social change and the like - Then of course, there is dramatic change... you know, like an economic depression, a merger or an asteroid. No matter what the reason for any change, or whether you look at the word change as a noun or a verb, at the core it's all about making or becoming different. 

There is that word "different" again... and as you know, if you want to drive creative solutions you need to look at situations and problems differently. Change is at the heart of everything it seems, and anyone believing that there is a thing such as a permanent status quo is misaligned with the way our universe actually works. So back to Petronius, his fantastic quote is more a reflection of the ever constant of change and how it impacts us; as he says, it creates "confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization". There are a couple of truisms here that we have to accept...  there is will always be change and we dislike change with its unpredictability.

I'm going to loosely throw out the word "Adaption" as our method for adjusting and managing change and how we ultimately deal with some of the "confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization" that Petronius mentions. We all have different capacities and tolerances when it comes to Adaption to Change, and I wanted to draw on some of the characteristics of people who are very adept at it.

So what does strong Adaption to Change look like in a person?

  1. An innate understanding that change is an ongoing event, offering growth and opportunity even if its through adversity - This may be as simple as being an optimist versus a pessimist.
  2. They do not believe in the concept of perfection and understand that their way is not the only way. You know those people who just absolutely need to have it their way... they tend not to be so good with managing change. Control is an illusion.
  3. Operates from core convictions, such as integrity and morality, that are well defined regarding what they will and will not do. This creates a compass as to how to move through change and reduces the chances of getting "lost" - And makes sleeping at night easier. 
  4. A core belief that their skills will allow them to work through any situation - The simple belief in ones self.
  5. Take personal ownership of the situation, without trying to assess blame or energy on the phantom that is to fault for the change - It is important to understand why the change and the situation occurred but not dwell on it.

I would never suggest that there isn't change that pushes us back, knocks us down or gives us a bloody lip, but as they say, "The sun comes up the next day"**, so one way or another you have to deal with it.

I still very much like the quote from Petronius.


* Adaption means the same as Adaptation but doesn't sound like I am discussing the Pepper Moth and how its unique adaptation was forced by the industrial revolution. The industrial soot from the factories darkened all the trees so the moth's wings changed from white to grey to maintain its camouflage advantage. (Sorry... it's the Biologist in me)

** If the sun doesn't come up we have a problem of cosmic proportion and this is all a moot point.