“I HAVE a confession to make,” said Beth Comstock, former vice chair at General Electric and the first woman ever to hold the post. “I call myself a change-maker, but I have to tell you — I really don’t like change.
“But, the reality is,” she continued, “like change or not, we have to be ready for it.”
So, how do we get our heads around change? During her presentation at ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference, Comstock said that the key is to shift your mindset.
“It really comes down to this one thing,” she said. “You have to imagine a future that few others can see, and then you have to take action to make it happen.”
“Change isn’t really the scary part,” said Comstock. “It’s that most of us don’t know how to handle change.
“The thing that is holding us back, is fear,” she said.
In today’s hyperconnected world, in which we often focus more on efficiency than on creativity, she said we have to move forward without knowing all the answers.
A critical part of the problem is something that Comstock calls the “imagination gap,” where “possibility goes to die.”
Our search for greater efficiency and perfection has developed an almost mechanical work culture that fears creativity and failure.
Not only is “failure” a word we refuse to talk about in our organizations — 75 percent of people say they do not feel creative at work — it is putting pressure on children as well, a time when developing imagination is critical.
Comstock believes this imagination gap is holding us back by crowding out the very human nature of us.
“Everyone’s job is now change,” she said. “You can’t delegate it. You have to understand it starts with you.”
The number one way to shift your mindset and achieve change is to give yourself, and your teams, permission to change, including trying and testing new things. This includes giving yourself permission to fail.
Comstock has even given herself and her team members physical “permission slips” to express fear and give themselves permission to try things that might not work. Importantly, this permission also includes giving feedback to other team members to foster accountability.
“Feedback is oxygen for a change-ready mindset,” she said. “Seek it. Give it. Use it.”
“What do you fear? Pinpointing that fear, and engaging with it head-on, is the first step to creating and better adapting to change.”