22 April 2011

Change vs. Progress

“Now that we have progress so rapid that it can be observed from year to year, no one calls it progress. People call it change, and rather than yearn for it, they brace themselves against its force.”
-- Stewart Brand, The Clock of the Long Now*

We live in a time of such constant Change that sometimes we see only the Change and not the Progress it brings.

If all you see is Change, the typical human response is to resist, or as Brand puts it, “brace against its force.” (If you’d like to know more about Stewart Brand, click here, and you’ll also learn that this quote is actually ancient 20th Century wisdom from his book published in 1999. That seems like eons ago but the quote is more relevant than ever.)

If, however, you look at Change and see the Progress it brings, you won’t brace against it, but embrace it. It’s a choice that you must address introspectively: are you going to be fearful or courageous? If Change is inevitable, do you really have any other choice?

It’s better to be courageous, of course. That doesn’t mean we should be foolhardy, embracing Change just for the sake of Change, or just simply “go with the flow”. Our pursuit of Progress should be neither foolhardy nor passive. Rather, we should always use a mixture of curiosity and caution.

Change is only Progress if you’re looking for it. It takes work. You have to stay on top of the trends. You have to see how they apply to your own or your client’s business. You have to be willing to try some new things, and be able to convince your colleagues to try them, too. That’s where the caution comes in. Some of these bets will fail. If you stop and think about a new way of working, you’ll reduce the risk of failure and increase the chance of learning.

How are you doing on your goals for 2011?

We’re about a third into the calendar year. How are you doing on your goals for 2011? Maybe you set some goals or made some resolutions. There’s a very good chance you anticipated 2011 would be a year of Change and planned accordingly.

So far, would you say you’ve experienced only Change, or Progress as well? The difference is up to you.

*Hat tip: Ross McLean, who used this quotation in his presentation at SXSW.