Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A guide to change Part I

Change. It's been a favorite topic of discussion for some time now. The election of our first black President. Massive shifts in the economy. The impact on society of the internet. Heck, it's even a favorite topic of the folks who hang out on street corners.

So I thought I'd write a bit about change.

It seems to me there are two kinds of change: evolutionary change and revolutionary change. This post will focus on evolutionary change. I'll take up revolutionary change in my next blog post. Partly because I want to create a bit of suspense for both of my readers. And partly because I'm most of the way through a Westmalle Tripel and I want to enjoy the buzz by lounging around and watching some TV.

OK. Evolutionary change. Here goes.

1) What is it?
This is the slow progress that is the most common form of change. This is the form of change that takes you from a rough draft to a solid and functional first draft, a first draft to a finished work and a finished work to version 2, 3, etc. Evolutionary change ceases to have utility when the object it changes already offers as much value to its users as they need.

2) What is it used for?
Evolutionary change is designed to increase the functional performance of an institution be it a business, a state, a social group, etc. It makes things work better. And we need things to work better. Garbage bags still rip too damn often. That's got to stop.

3) What does it contribute?
Well, better garbage bags didn't you read what I just wrote?! Evolutionary change improves our quality of life, expands our ability to influence our environment and gives jobs to politicians who generally are unsuited for honest jobs. It also gave us opposable thumbs.

4) What are its flaws?
The principle flaw is that it hypnotizes people so they don't know when to quit. Evolutionary change is so absorbing that it makes its practitioners want to keep going and making whatever they focus on better and better. But, you see, at some point, my garbage bag is going to be really good. It won't rip ever. It will have a nice fragrance and absolutely prevent any bad odor from getting out. It will have a cushiony handle and be easy to carry... Then I'll be happy.

But the practitioners of evolutionary change won't quit. They will keep looking for additional ways to improve my garbage bags even though I'm done with the whole garbage bag evolution thing. Why? Because they will have told themselves a story about how goddamn important garbage bags are and how they, alone, are the experts in garbage bags. And how there are "unmet needs." They will forget that, although they spend all day thinking about garbage bags, the people for whom they make the garbage bags don't.

Evolutionary change lulls us into a trance because it is continuous. You can always be just a little bit better. And we all want to be better. So we walk down that path. Bit by bit. We like the accolades we get. It feels good. If we take one more step we know we'll get another Scooby snack. We won't realize that the nutritional value we derive from those Scooby snacks decreases with each additional one we ingest. We won't realize that seven minute abs is about as good as we need it to be.

5) How do you create evolutionary change?
You find annoyances in your life. Like leaky garbage bags. You ask lots of "how" questions. You observe the minutiae of life. How things work. You dive really deep into a given area. You experiment. A lot.

6) What kind of people are good at evolutionary change?
People who have a very high attention to detail. People who are patient. After all, my ultimate garbage bag is not going to be built in a day. [BTW, I did not start writing this post with the intention of mentioning garbage bags at all. I certainly didn't intend to use them as a running example. But this is how it goes. For whatever reason, I'm fixated on garbage bags now. It's weird. Really.] People who like to see fast results. Yes, I also said that they are patient. What I mean is that they are patient to get it right. But they like to see steady improvement.

Alright. That's pretty much all I have to say about evolutionary change. I'll just sum up by pointing out how critically important evolutionary change is. This is what makes stuff work well in society. Whether that stuff is a government program, a car, our televisions or, yes, you guessed it: the goddamn garbage bag.


ragegirrl said...

Hey, where's part II? :)

Adam said...

I know I know... I meant to write it immediately but got into a few other ideas and now I'm just procrastinating. OK, I promise to post it very soon.

Thanks for the push!