“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”Leo Tolstoy
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Resistance to change comes in many forms. For organisations, introducing a new order means a disruption to the old. When the old order gets disrupted, there is a redistribution of power and status for those already in power. Often the leader of the business got to their position of power based on their expertise in an old business model. Therefore, they may resist the introduction of an alternative model. Vested interest is a huge blocker for innovation and change efforts and resistance often comes from the very top.
True transformation involves an orchestration of several levers. We need the right conditions; we need the right leaders, and importantly, we need a willingness to change. This starts at the individual level.
This Thursday Thought highlights that even when change presents obvious advantages, we often still resist it.
The QWERTY Conundrum
The QWERTY keyboard is named after the first six keys on the upper row of letters on the standard keyboards we use (have a look down if you are on a computer). The keyboard layout is intentionally inefficient and makes us work much harder than other layouts. Despite the availability of more efficient alternatives, QWERTY has persisted since 1873! This raises many questions: Why was it designed to slow us down? Why has it persisted? Why don’t we just change?
The inventor of QWERTY, Christopher Latham Sholes, intended the QWERTY layout for typewriters. With the goal of avoiding key jams, Sholes purposely arranged the most commonly used letter sequences awkwardly specifically to slow typists down. In solving one problem, he created another, but it was the lesser of two evils. There was an imposed limit to how fast we could type on a typewriter, but it this layout presented even more challenges.
This is ridiculous. Surely someone tried to change all this? They did. Try, that is.
In 1932, Professor August Dvorak of the University of Washington created a much more efficient keyboard arrangement. In his must-read book, ‘Diffusion of Innovations’, Everett Rogers shared, “With the QWERTY keyboard, an efficient typist’s fingertips travel more than twelve miles a day, jumping from row to row. These unnecessary, intricate movements cause mental tension and carpal tunnel syndrome and lead to more typographical errors. Typists typing on the Dvorak keyboard have broken all speed records.”
Very few of us use typewriters today, we use computer keyboards (and increasingly voice inputs). Despite the multitude of advantages of using the Dvorak keyboard, QWERTY remains the most used keyboard today. There are many reasons for this, we can always point the finger to “them”, to those with vested interests, the manufactures, the sales team, the distributors. But what if I told you we can all change to Dvorak keyboards?
Unbeknownst to most computer users, we can easily change to a Dvorak keyboard. To do so requires retraining, unlearning our old way of doing things and relearning new ones. We prefer to make do with what we have rather than looking for a better alternative. Transformation involves an integration of the right tools (business models) and the right mindset (mental models).
75% of transformation efforts fail, and they are not always the fault of the organisation. While we blame the tools, even when better tools are available to us, we persist with our old ways.
We cannot change business models until we first change mental models. Often stepping into the future means letting go of the past.
THANKS FOR READING
Episode 238 of the Innovation Show is: “The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech” Bill Deresiewicz
There are two stories you hear about making a living as an artist in the digital age, and they are diametrically opposed.
One comes from Silicon Valley and its boosters in the media. There’s never been a better time to be an artist, it goes. If you’ve got a laptop, you’ve got a recording studio. If you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve got a movie camera. GarageBand, Final Cut Pro: all the tools are at your fingertips. And if production is cheap, distribution is free. It’s called the Internet: YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, Kindle Direct Publishing. Everyone’s an artist; just tap your creativity and put your stuff out there. Soon, you too can make a living doing what you love, just like all those viral stars you read about.
The other story comes from artists themselves, especially musicians but also writers, filmmakers, people who do comedy. Sure, it goes, you can put your stuff out there, but who is going to pay you for it? Digital content has been demonetised: music is free, writing is free, video is free, even images you put up on Facebook or Instagram are free, because people can (and do) just take them. Everyone is not an artist. Making art takes years of dedication, and that requires a means of support. If things don’t change, a lot of art will cease to be sustainable.
Previous episode “Excellent Sheep”
Bill is here
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