August 27, 2015 Anil Saxena

Clinging To The Past

Somewhere along the way, most of us developed some kind of identity. Whether it was through a social group, and achievement, an activity, or any of a number of possible avenues, people tend to have a certain framework for how they see themselves.
The same can be true for companies – somewhere along the timeline, an identity was established, and just like people, that sense of identity has a way of perpetuating itself.

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, what happens when that identity is challenged, or needs to change?

Far too often, an identity is held so closely that it becomes a barrier to progress and growth – but why? What are people so afraid of?

For some, it might be some sense of past glory, of holding on to a time when they felt on top of the world, and the thought of facing a new reality is too much to bear. For others, it may be a sense of embarrassment, that they’ve established themselves in a particular way, and they assume that they will be frowned upon by their peers for deviating from familiar patterns.

These social shortcomings can be reflected throughout a business as well, when those in leadership roles feel that they can’t change a company’s identity for fear of scrutiny or refusal to admit that times have changed.
But change is akin to growth for both businesses and individuals. Adapting to new circumstances, moving into new markets, rolling with the punches, and rising to challenges are all part of the process. When companies (and the people who operate them) are not willing to adapt, they are stunting themselves and any potential for progress.

Changing parts of an identity is scary – and understandably so. It takes courage to admit that you didn’t have it all figured out, that your old ways aren’t necessarily applicable today.
We have this tendency to hold onto our past selves as if it were some kind of lifeline, instead of seeking to grow into the realities we face moving forward. This is both counterproductive and counterintuitive. For the strongest identity (for both individuals and brands), we can’t be afraid to reevaluate and restructure to reflect our current understanding of the world.
Is there a more admirable identity than being adaptable to change?
The lessons learned and characteristics formed in the past are certainly an important part of any identity, but clinging to them too closely does little but make a relic of a person or company, and leaves absolutely zero room for improvement.

Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.

Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


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