Mantra for 2010…”Stay slushy”

In the early 1900’s, Kurt Lewin (a German-American psychologist) develop a model of how human beings change.  It was a 3 stage model with the stages being:

  • Unfreeze
  • Change
  • Freeze

The idea was that we :

  • could unfreeze our beliefs and/or behaviors
  • change them
  • then freeze the new beliefs and behaviors

Sounds simple right?  Lewin did a nice job of providing the tools and techniques for this process and you can research them on your own if you like.  Well this worked fine for the past 60 years or so until we realized that change was no longer an isolated/punctuated event.  We have now accepted (some more than others) that Heraclitus was correct and “We can never step in the same stream twice.” 

At this point I want to pause and bask in the irony that we are discussing the thoughts of an ancient Greek philosopher whose main contribution was the theory that change was central to the universe.  Someone already figured out over 2500 years ago that change was ubiquitous yet we seem to continue wrestle with this universal certainty.  I guess that goes to show we are not all that bright?  Well… time for Captain Tangent to get back to the point he was trying to make…

Not only did we determine that the rate of change was increasing but we also realized that meant that we needed to keep pace with change if we wanted to remain relevant in the business world.  This means that we would have to hone the following abilities:

  • agility – ability to think & draw conclusions quickly
  • adaptability – able to adjust oneself readily to different conditions 
  • endurance  – ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions
  • discernment – act of exhibiting keen insight & good judgment
  • learning – ability to modify behavior through practice, training, or experience
  • discipline – (this is an underlying foundation) rigor or training effect of experience

Based on this, we can return to Lewin’s model and see why there has been a change.  We no longer want a hard freeze after the behaviors have changed.  We want to be slushy.  We want to apply enough cold so that the it holds shape but want to avoid solidifying it.  Why?  Because we know it will not be long before the process must be repeated and we will to go through the process again.  The more rigid we become, the harder it is to change.  Our goal should be Perpetual Slushiness!

What do this mean?  It means that David Kilcullen was spot on when he pointed out that, “…This approach could be considered a ‘counterwar strategy,’ where the key threat to be mastered would be the conflict environment itself, rather than a particular armed enemy,” (excerpt from The Accidental Guerrilla” ).  I know this is in reference to guerrilla warfare but the applicability is concept to the business environment is amazing (Musashi would be proud).

To close, here is something I borrowed from fun little song from the late 80’s-early 90’s

“Once again, the Wider Lens is in the house
I’d like to send a shout out to the whole world,
keep on bein’ slushy,
and to the business people,
Peace & Slushiness forever

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Filed under Adaptation, Strategy

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