In our long careers we could get blinded by change, at least temporarily; those who better prepare themselves can embrace change and participate in the transformation process. Those who take long to recover from the temporary blindness get left behind. Being blind is attached to positional acceptance of things and succumbing to fate.
Think of a merger or an acquisition which comes unannounced and you will see this blindness engulfing you or the entire organization; a change of role or a new environment could be nothing different. You could be swept off by the sudden event for which you had no inkling.
Being prepared for change is a trait that is never taught in colleges or business schools, organizations also do not have a regimen for preparing people for change in a systematic manner.
When you become hit by a change, you feel like you are blinded and you try to reach out to whatever you find around you to retain your bearings.
It is somewhat like the blind men touching an elephant. You almost wish you had someone to hold your hand, be a guide or a coach.
The old adage about the blind men and the elephant will be ripe in our memories; to the man holding the tail it would seem like a rope, while the tusk would spark of images of a spear and the leg that of a tree trunk, such are the vastly different imagery of one single animal when “felt” in different areas of the body.
Learning in colleges, just before we embark on a long journey at work is no way different from this maneuver; some would assume the work life to be as rote and uneventful as the worst subject chosen out of sheer luck in the first grade and some would think it would be like the most enjoyed elective in the final year. Either way it would be like imagining something out of casual acquaintance, like the touching of the elephant.
No one prepares us for transformation or change in our colleges, as if work life is out of the syllabus, or out of the curriculum. Teaching and learning is as much about specificity of subjects as about how to learn. But while colleges have a brilliant arrangement for learning skills, it does not have a great way to coach one for coping with change.
Work life is about application of learning, which cannot be taught. So from a definitive position on a subject, one must take the leap into exploration of things to be able to figure out how work could be conducted the way an organization would want it to be done; handling transformation or change is absolutely out of syllabus.
How on earth would a fresher from college figure out what this means? Do we prepare our pass-outs with the basics of how things could change at a work place? Each in her own way would figure out what this means and after several attempts would stumble on the realization that all the virtuosity in college that produced those grades in subjects ranging from science, arts of humanities, adds up to create a platform on which the next steps must be built, if a successful career has to be made that would have to maneuver several transformational challenges.
The first striking observation would be that so little in colleges have been devoted to ‘doing things together’ or in ‘exploration’ of widely diverse things conjoined by the desire to challenge existing paradigms.
If I have touched the tail, nothing stops me from exploring more to find the trunk or the body. But I must not behave like a blind man who is so comfortable with his positional acceptance of things.
College education remains so stressful with long hours of hard work but it could have yielded better results had the time spent on memorizing been better guided towards exploration of things in a collective spirit.
Unfortunately business and academics co-created education to serve a purpose that is nuanced between creating expertise in specifics and in associations of generality. Neither of this helped to create innovation in the minds of students or the unstinted desire to challenge the status quo of things.
All education, management education included is about steady states, not about how to cope with change.
That is what makes the batch of fresher stumble on the first task, that of being part of a large ensemble, where small contributions must be indexed and tallied to make a large change happen.
The behavioral patterns are unmistakably entwined between denial of some kind to the acceptance of status quo.
We must prepare our students and our freshers in organizations to first prepare better for change that is becoming the only constant in our working lives.
But this could be an issue at all stages of the career and one must be prepared for this. Finding coaches and being self aware are good starting points but preparation is all about the instincts that would prompt you to challenge the existing paradigm.
That does not come naturally and is a matter of painstaking preparation.