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Alan M. Webber

Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber, a founding editor of Fast Company magazine, is an award-winning editor, author, and columnist. His most recent book is Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself.

Costly Status Quo

My own Rule #5 says: Change is a math formula. The formula is, change happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change.

What brinksmanship does is to increase the cost of the status quo. The goal is to drive up the perceived expense of clinging to outmoded practices and unsupportable business practices and cost structures. As the cost of the status quo goes up, the risk of change looks a lot more acceptable, in comparison.

What's fascinating is why this has to be so; why the human animal appears to be wired in such a manner that even though logic and rational thought can demonstrate the futility of the present state of affairs, it takes a huge amount of public posturing, arguing, and even bullying to provide the emotional context that makes action inevitable.

Think where General Motors and Chrysler, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and any number of now extinct retailers, airlines, newspapers, magazines--as well as individual politicians and corporate leaders--would be if they had been able to confront the simple inexorable math of their attachment to the status quo and the need to embrace the risk of change.

The lesson we keep learning, as individuals, companies, industries, and perhaps a country, is that change isn't the real risk. Not changing is the real risk. Nothing is more certain to fail than clinging to the status quo when the whole world is undergoing dramatic redirection. The job of the real leader is to anticipate change, and then to expedite it, recognizing that whoever gets to the future first wins.

By Alan M. Webber

 |  May 6, 2009; 10:11 AM ET
Category:  Managing Crises Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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