10.23.2006


Don't Go Changin'

In grade 10 Social Studies class, I remember having an open discussion about government policies and social reform. My teacher shared some great ideas to better society, that seemed common sensical, and I questioned why society wouldn't embrace such changes. He explained to me that people are skeptical and afraid of change. My 15 year-old idealistic brain struggled to understand such a concept - afraid of change? Even if that change makes it better for all involved?

Fast forward two years - it was the first week of my last year of school. We had a new cafeteria manager and after just days on the new job, she decided to move the cafeteria tables. Our once institutional-like arrangement of long rows of tables, from one end of the room to the other, was no longer. Instead, groups were formed by taking two rectangular tables, placed side by side, with ten chairs placed around the tables. I was outraged! Who was she to go and move all the tables and chairs? They were fine just the way they were. They had always been like that, didn't she know that?

I immediately started protesting. Posters all over the school demanding the cafeteria be returned to normal, petitions, organized bans of the cafeteria. I wouldn't stop until justice was done! One day, my beloved Social Studies teacher approached me and gently asked what I was doing. "I'm exercising my democratic right! Freedom of speech! This isn't a dictatorship! She should have put the table-moving to a vote!" In my teacher's calm and unassuming manner, he suggested that I try out the new arrangement, that perhaps I would like it. "After all," he said with a twinkle in his eye, "you, of all people, are not afraid of change."

Boing!!

The posters came down, the petition was trashed, and I persuaded the students to move back indoors and eat their lunch in the cafeteria. Guess what? We liked the new set-up. It was cozier. Easier to have a conversation. Remarkably quieter. Fewer food fights. It was better for everyone.

Since those high school days, I have continually made an effort to embrace change - some times it's easier said than done, but then again, everything is easier said than done. And all around me, I recognize in people that fear of change and I witness the reactionary skepticism. No where more am I aware of it than with the Glo to Sleep.

But we, as inventors and marketers, are not alone - most new ideas and products are met with skepticism, met with a resistance to accept and adopt. People are reluctant to change their lifestyle, their patterns, their routines. Or as Seth Godin puts it, unwilling to change their "worldview".

"The horseless carriage is just a fad!"

"A washing machine?! People today are just lazy!"

"What's wrong with 8-track?!"

"The internet?! Who's going to use that?!"

"E-mail, Schmee-mail! I'll send my letters the old-fashioned way, thank you!"

A German philosopher, by the name of Arthur Schopenhauer, once said,
"All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident."

Any inventor, scientist, ideasmith, or marketer can relate to that! But it's those of us - who persevere, who believe in our idea, who are willing to be ridiculed, who are willing to face questions and disbelief - that will see it through until the change and shift is made and our idea is accepted as obvious.

And at that point, we will all be better for it.


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