The unwelcome change in your job may be your next opportunity

unwelcome change

How To Deal With Unwelcome Change

I hear from people every week who are upset that things are changing — and they see it as unwelcome change.  They really want to just keep things the way they’ve been for the last 10 years.

Let’s create our own scenario from a few millennia ago: ten cavemen spend their days fishing. Each morning the ten men go down to the local lake, cast their lines, and hope to provide the necessary food for their dependents. Then one day, Barney shows up with a net he has fashioned from strings and ropes. Because the net can capture even the fish who escape the lure of the fishing lines, Barney is able to catch more fish in one hour than he and his ten friends had been catching all day. Suddenly Barney can supply fish for the whole village.

So what happens to the other ten fishermen? Are they out of work? Do they now have nothing of value to occupy their time? Do they give up working and start receiving three clams a day as unemployment compensation? Should their village guarantee their children’s education and their families’ medical care as they sit idly by in their front yards? Or are there other new opportunities that may even complement the services of Barney and his new fishing net?

Let’s create some possibilities for those ten fishermen.

1. Clem.

Clem is no dummy. He’s Barney’s younger brother, and he sees an opportunity. He starts making more nets like the one Barney is using. As word spreads, he hires ten people to help make the nets.

2. Oscar.

Because of the quantity of fish now being caught, Oscar opens a fish-processing plant at the edge of the lake. He brings on fifteen people to help, as they begin to ship to inland areas, whose residents have never before eaten fresh fish.

3. Henry.

Given the need for transportation, Henry begins to build wagons to haul the fish to other parts of the country. He can’t keep up with the demand by himself, so he hires five people to help him build wagons (perhaps the precursors to the SUV).

4. Bill.

Bill sees the opportunity to be the driver of the wagons hauling the fish. But he can drive only one personally, so he hires six other people for separate delivery routes.

5. Charlie.

Since so many moms and dads are now working in these new enterprises, the children are not being taught their lessons. Charlie and his wife, Sarah, recognize the need and open the Friendship School of Cave City. To help them in the teaching process, they hire and train six assistants.

6. Ronald.

More and more people are working away from home and do not have time to fix their own meals at home. So Ronald opens Bedrock’s first restaurant. Guess what his specialty is? Right, fresh fish sandwiches. Ronald hires fifteen people with rotating shifts to help out with the cooking, serving, and cleaning.

7. Levi.

As workers are moving in new circles, seeing more strangers each day, they recognize that the fig leaf is not appropriate attire for every occasion, especially for working in close proximity to the saws in the wagon factory. Levi begins designing a new clothing option for those workers, something durable and protective—thus Levi’s jeans are born. Levi brings on twelve people immediately because the demand for his products is so great.

8. Cyrus.

As the number of net builders, wagon carpenters, and drivers increases, they have less time to grow their own basic food. Cyrus forms a co-op with eight others to begin a commercial farming operation. They grow wheat, carrots, peas, and beans. They also have a small orchard to supplement the vegetables and grains with an occasional piece of fruit.

9. Roman.

This man, who began working on the farm, discovers one day, quite by accident, that the wheat can be ground up and used in other ways. By cooking the ground wheat, Roman invents what he calls “bread.” Word spreads quickly that bread goes well with cheese and fish, and Roman has to hire eighteen people to help him handle the orders.

10. Mulah.

So many clams are changing hands every day that the average person has trouble keeping track of what clams are his and what are part of the business. Mulah, after training himself, hires five others, teaches them the principals of handling clams, and opens the first bank.

This has always been the process of innovation.

Throughout history, society’s problem solvers have been generously rewarded for their efforts. Instead of the fishing net putting 10 people out of work, the innovations in this small village led to the employment of 110 people in meaningful work.

Today’s work environment is very similar. As always before in our history, we need creative people to see the opportunities instead of obstacles, and to create the future. And today, as in every stage of our country’s development, the best opportunities may not look like those of yesterday. Today’s best opportunities may not include punching a clock, having a company car, or being guaranteed health insurance and a retirement plan. They may not involve an eight to five schedule or even an office.

What opportunities can you see in your current work environment?

Do you see the need for more convenience for your coworkers? Would they be thrilled to have some healthy snack options at 10:30 and 2:30 each day? Would they be candidates for chair massages? Do you see a machine that needs an improved design? What about doing oil changes and car cleanups for all those cars sitting in the parking lot all day? Do you have an eye for fashion? Could you help your coworkers shop to look their very best? Could you teach business etiquette, showing the importance of eye contact, smile, and tone of voice? People have made fortunes with all of these and many other simple ideas— like Post-it notes, the stapler, Starbucks coffee, the iPhone, the list goes on and on.

What are ten ideas you’ve had but have not acted upon?

These are principles from No More Dreaded Mondays.  

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