Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development | Training & CPE

Quit stalling. Start learning.

Good things come to those who wait … and wait … and wait.

About 18 months ago, Gretchen Pisano — an Insights to Action partner with Tom Hood and a good friend of the MACPA — recommended a book to me called The Art of the Idea, by John Hunt. I told her, “Great — I’ll download it to my iPhone later today.” Gretchen said, “Oh, no — you have to buy the actual book and hold it in your hands. It’s short, but it’s a beautiful read.”

So I ordered the book, and when it was delivered I immediately saw what Gretchen meant. The binding and artwork on this book were gorgeous — things you can’t experience in an e-book. Impressed as I was, I had a few other books to read first, so I tossed it on my nightside table.

And there it stayed. For the next year and a half.

A few days ago, I picked it up and finally started reading it, and … wow.

I don’t know that you can call Hunt’s thoughts original or groundbreaking, but he presents them in a way that makes you open your eyes and experience the origins of thought in an entirely different light.

Case in point, this passage:

“I’ve met many people and companies who are fueled purely by habit. They are incapable of changing because they are unaware of this. Habit has disguised itself so cunningly, they are totally oblivious to its presence. This is because when change presents itself, habit sends others out to fight its battles. Very few people are prepared to ask themselves: Is there a habit or an idea behind this? Is this the best way or merely the most accepted? These responses inevitably allow fear of the unknown to invite procrastination in, ensuring that nothing happens.

“Intellectually, the gatekeepers always say the same thing: ‘It’s still working, so why change?’ It’s as if the speed of momentum all around them is happily offset by their total lack of movement. They don’t realize that changing only when you have to usually means it’s too late already. That if you don’t anticipate the future, you will be run over by it.

“So, like lemmings, they scurry happily, ever closer, to the cliff’s edge. And as they follow each other mindlessly into the sea, they still chant, ‘Why fix it, if it ain’t broke?’”

We’ve heard all of this before — most eloquently from futurist Andrew Zolli, who told me a couple of years ago that the most common reason that organizations fail is that they fail to detect the weak signals of disruptive change on the horizon — and then get run over by them. As Tom Hood said at this year’s Sage Summit, “The size, scale and speed of change today are almost unfathomable.” To succeed in this environment, we need to do two things:

  • constantly improve ourselves through lifelong learning, and
  • anticipate how those weak signals of change will disrupt our lives, and act on those changes before the disruption arrives.

Of course, learning and anticipation are so much harder to achieve when you ignore a groundbreaking education for 18 months.

Quit stalling. Pick up a book. Read it. Learn. Anticipate.



Bill Sheridan