What a Christmas classic can teach us about change
It’s A Wonderful Lesson
Change is inevitable. And you know what else is? That ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ the familiar and festive tale of redemption and hope which first premiered today in 1946, will be on telly this Christmas. After all, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same. But as people in the business of initiating change, how do you decide what stays and what goes? Can you aspire to create a timeless offering? And how do you stay recognizable in a world where staying still is deemed the biggest business sin of them all?
Innovation from failure
The truth is that poorly, hastily, or needlessly executed change is a bad thing. You can lose sight of your company’s identity, neglect your core values, or, worse still reach change saturation, losing valuable resources and the faith of your people in the process. And while innovation is important, there are notable failures of those who innovated a little too far, such as Nike’s Magneto eyewear which required users to glue a magnet to their head – yes, you did just read that – or the unassuming private museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan which is filled with over 140,000 items that make up an impressive homage to the failed product, including our personal favourite – Snausages Fortune Snookies, the rather short-lived fortune cookies for dogs. It goes to show that change isn’t always good – though it can make for a cracking museum.
Keeping up and staying true
- Well, firstly, assessing your own need to change is a great first step, whether you use an external consultancy to help, or are happy to check your own metrics. Your business is as unique as you are, and if you’re in a good position in a competitive market, don’t sacrifice that for the novelty of needless change.
- Secondly, look at your values. Part of the appeal of It’s A Wonderful Life is that its values and message resonate with everyone; we all have moments of sadness and desperation which can cloud the contribution that we’ve made to the world; that ache of failure is as recognisable as the hope to the contrary. But your values are the principles that guide you and the decisions you make, so if your destination has changed, your audience has changed, or the times have, then maybe they do need a refresh.
- Another way to change subtly but effectively is to join an ecosystem, where what you do becomes part of a bigger, dynamic group that offers a greater diversity of clients and opportunities. And when you’re part of a greater innovative process that pushes for better solutions, you’ll also discover new markets and develop an exciting set of new capabilities that will refresh and regenerate you.
- Finally, choose to change strategically, planning out each step and considering the merits of health-checks along the way. There is, barring another black swan event, no need to rush into change – be ready, but not rushed. In fact, the more considered it is, and its impact across the business fully understood, the better it will be. Change can still be impactful even if it’s subtle, and learning to contribute and engage differently are key ways to support that development.
Preserve your identity
If we briefly apply these lessons to It’s A Wonderful Life, we can see the truth of it. It’s gone through changes in its delivery, (from VHS to iTunes), and its audience has been broadened with references to it appearing in everything from Red Dwarf to The Exorcist. It’s been made into radio plays, musicals, and been paid testament to by the Muppets. John Pierson’s ‘The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody,’ tells the story of the town if George Bailey had died from suicide. There was a poorly-received sequel, and ongoing plans for a better one. There’s also the Sesame Street conspiracy that alludes to a connection between the sets of Berts and Ernies in each production. But it has stayed recognizable throughout, with its strong message and simple values, so that these segues, tweaks and evolutions have simply served to broaden its appeal and profile. So, change relating to your engagement, audience, or delivery may seem more moderate than that ambitious new product launch, or total rebrand, but they can be powerful ways to create positive change that doesn’t push you to the very brink – or maybe that museum in Michigan.
A Christmas Gift
While Christmas might be a season of novelty gifts and shiny packaging, it’s also a time of deep truths and timeless values. It’s A Wonderful Life reflects those in ways that appeal to the soul, and that authenticity is also a factor in its enduring appeal. So, while we can’t send you an angel, we are going to take time this season to reflect on the contribution that we’ve made – and we suggest you do the same. There is always value in what you’ve done, even if it doesn’t always feel like it, so be proud of what you have achieved, be persistent with the things you haven’t – and change with purpose, focus and unity.