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Emergent by Stephen Scott Johnson

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Chapter 1 Challenging the fear and fatigue of change

ACCORDING TO LEWIS E PLATT, CHAMPION of innovation culture and Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO, ‘You must anticipate that whatever made you successful in the past won’t in the future.’ Platt’s 1994 speech gave business leaders everywhere inspiration for guiding their organisations in uncertain times. Such basic advice could have been interpreted as flippant were it not for the potent industrial context of HP’s major competitors at the time undermining their own competitive vitality by clinging to outmoded strategies long past their use-by date.

Change was once a cyclical process that occurred inside organisa-tions every one to two years, based on a top-down directive from leadership in response to social and economic evolution. It was then rolled out by change professionals tasked with overseeing carefully crafted linear plans with clearly defined entry points, middles and conclusions. ‘Successful change’ was measured as adherence to and fulfilment of a particular set of benchmarks, often with the intent of improving operational efficiencies and people function. Change was rigid, highly controlled, and ‘done’ to people — a process that lacked transparency and vital human connection.

Despite encouragement from leaders to ‘embrace change’ as a ‘for the best’ solution, this change process was often met with fear and resistance. Not surprisingly, according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the new world ...

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