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Aidan McCullen’s new book talks about the need for individuals as well as organisations to embrace a mindset of perpetual change.
For transformation consultant Aidan McCullen, it is no longer enough to think you have made it when you achieve success and to focus only on the present. There is no longer a safe harbour of success and in fact, when businesses are at their most successful, he says, they are also at their most fragile. This is because business now is about “perpetual becoming, a permanent reinvention”.
Despite this, says McCullen in his new book Undisruptable, there is much resistance to change. So much so that 75% of transformation programmes fail. For him the problem is that “we cannot change what we do until we also change how we think”. For McCullen, host and founder of the Global Innovation Show, individual and organisational change work together and are symbiotic. What is needed, he says, is a mindset of permanent reinvention. That means, for instance, that while organisations should provide growth opportunities, individuals have a responsibility to take charge of their personal development.
One of the problems, says McCullen, is that we have been educated for stability, meaning our “mental and operational flexibility has atrophied”. We need to embrace a new way of thinking that opens us up to new ways of doing things and to continual innovation.
McCullen admits that resisting change is natural and says that transformational, lasting change [as opposed to incremental improvements] involves “psychological warfare for the individual”. It requires letting go of something old and it cannot be rushed, he says.
It also involves making mistakes, admitting that you have made them and learning from them rather than being defensive. It also requires organisations that allow people to make mistakes in the pursuit of innovation.
In the book McCullen outlines an S-shaped perpetual process of change, where people build upon skills and capabilities developed in past roles in new ones and where time is cyclical. He says: “Cycles are a great way to reframe every aspect of your life, from your career to your relationship, each interacting with the other and each at a different stage of its own life cycle.”
He also talks of the need for organisations to have a vision of where they want to be and to communicate this clearly. They also need to anticipate resistance and identify the people in the organisation who can act as changemakers. Individuals who try to change will also encounter resistance from others around them, he says, because their change exposes other people’s desire to stand still. On the other hand, McCullen also states that organisations need to provide exit opportunities for those who are stuck to help them to move on and find growth elsewhere.
And he counsels that even when organisations or individuals achieve success they should not be smug, rest on their laurels and focus on defending their status. “When you are so focussed on protecting your success, you become blind to threats and opportunities,” he writes. That means continuing to develop new skills and to innovate, to keep letting go of the past and evolving. McCullen ends by asking simply: “Would you rather be defined by a record of your past or driven by a vision of your future?”
*Undisruptable by Aidan McCullen is published by Wiley