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Saturday, 27 December 2014

No change, no progress

In a recent interview the new President of the European Union has warned the classic Dutch political parties (Labour, Christians and Liberals) not to imitate the protest movements at the far left or right as that would make EU countries ungovernable. He added some self interest too: it would also fill his EU Parliament with too many EU skepticism. Obviously, that would burden and hinder his own task.

The issue of centralisation and decentralisation is however an eternal pendulum.

Once centralisation is the key focus in business, organisations, politics or society at large, immediately a counter move will appear that strives for decentralisation. The opposite is valid as well.

The must-read international bestseller "A brief history of the future" (2006) by Jacques Attali predicts - for instance - that the State of Texas will one day decide to leave the United States of America and will then merge with Mexico. His arguments are sound though provocative.

Despite the self interested warnings of Mr Juncker, there is really nothing wrong with this process. Each organism and each system is always looking for a new balance once the pendulum is too far away from what it perceives as the center.

We need the swing of the pendulum as else nothing would ever happen. We would be in a stand-still. In a freeze. In Dutch we have a saying for such a phase: "rust roest" or rest rusts. We also have "stilstand is achteruitgang" or he who does not advance, goes backwards. The beauty of the English language immediately becomes visible in the double meaning of the word backwards. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that such a stand-still situation has no positive connotations.

In business Research and (Product) Development (or R&D) is the usual way to advance on competition. Little to no R&D expenditure usually implies that others will advance while you stand still but relatively go backwards. A bitter example is the development of the first smart phone by the then market leader Nokia. Nokia top management assumed that its customers would not be ready for this. The rest is history. Soon the name Nokia will no longer relate to phones.

Another must-read and famous booklet is "Who moved my cheese?" (1998) by Spencer Johnson. It is a motivational tale written in the style of a parable or business fable. The text describes the impact of change on one's work or personal life, and 4 typical reactions to those changes by 2 mice and 2 little people during their hunt for cheese (source: Wikipedia). The story illustrates that you must adapt to changing circumstances in order to find new cheese (e.g., food, income, love). When you freeze or stand still then you will die of hunger, thirst or otherwise.

Change is a must for everything and everyone. It is also referred as Evolution and sometimes Revolution. Change capitalises on lessons learned.

I have changed too as I have learned my life's lessons.