I”ve been watching the recent fallout between NZ Softball and a few of its players with interest. It”s had remarkable coverage for a small sport in a country dominated by Rugby and Cricket. Thats probably because Softball is something that Nz can compete on the world stage (however small that stage may be). The problem is that some of the players are that good at swinging a bat or throwing a ball that a very similar sport, Baseball, is starting to look at a few of the NZ Players and say “want to play our game?”.
You can see the attraction for the players: Baseball in the USA has money and that means a chance for some of these young guys to make a living in a way they never could at softball. So they want to play baseball as well as softball.
Where”s the problem in that? You may say. Well, Nz Softball doesn”t like this and is saying “you can”t play with us if you play with them”
So what has this to do with change? (knowing I need to get to the point soon or you will switch off). The tendency to protect the established order is something that you see time and again in the history of business. This starts simply as “The way we do things is fine, so we don”t need to change”. This scenario has been repeated so often that you can almost plot a “rise and fall” of great names as a result of it. Norton motorcycles died because they resisted the advent of simple things such as the push button start. Borders barely survived their belief that “we don”t need computers in a bookshop”. Many of the established names in the stock exchange of 100 years ago no longer exist. But with some its starts with that belief and then moves to a push to make sure that everyone else agrees or ensure that change doesn’t happen.
What we are seeing with NZ Softball is that interesting ‘protectionist’ thinking. When the established order not only rejects change, but tries to force their view of the world on the world by justifying their actions. We saw this a few years ago with Finance companies who said “you cannot afford to let us fail” and instead of suffering the evolutionary penalty of their actions, forced the world to change instead of them changing. Look beyond the world of business and in our lives and times Libya tried it, Syria is trying is and Egypt is struggling against the ‘we like
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the world the way it is because it suits me’ mindset.
NZ Softball certainly isn”t in the same basket as all those American finance companies, or those countries, but the thinking is the same. The kind of thinking that shows they can see change coming and don”t like the look of it. Thinking that leads to actions to hold back the change, prevent it from happening. Whether they are people in government, in businesses, established institutions, managers of companies you will see people using their position and their authority to try to hold back change. Its a human tendency.
Yes, I said ‘Managers of companies’. Day in and day out managers can, and do, make decisions to protect themselves from changes that they don’t like, that threaten their knowledge or their position or their power. Projects gently scuppered, proposals rejected, promotions prevented, decisions made and people put back in their place. Its a human tendency.
History shows that you can only hold change back for so long if you have the power, but if change has momentum you can”t hold it back forever. Indeed much of change seems part of the natural timeline of history. Wheels led to carts, carts led to carriages, carriages led to cars, cars to planes, planes to space travel (Please forgive the generalisation of Human history, but you know what I mean) and that”s why much of change is really just evolutionary.
What history shows is that if you don’t make the change, someone else will and before you know it you are the dinosaur that is dying out and the thing you were trying to prevent happens anyway. Evolution doesn’t give you many chances (so watch out Softball).