There are some people who absolutely hate change. They prefer to have things remain exactly the same way to which they have become accustomed. I am reminded of a song entitled, Stick to the Status Quo which is a well-known song from the Disney Channel’s original movie – High School Musical. In this song, the frequently repeated chorus reminds us to do the following: Stick to the stuff you know, it is better by far to keep things as they are, don’t mess with the flow no, no, stick to the status quo. Amusing as this movie and song happen to be, it does reflect a reality that some persons in our society readily embrace – they would prefer to simply stick to the status quo.
The status quo can be defined as the familiar, the known or the existing state of affairs and it is quite understandable why this would be an attractive resting place for those who may take issue with change. After all, change may bring levels of uncertainty with it, it may also bring degrees of discomfort with it and, moreover, it may result in us having to make decisions and adjustments which we may prefer not to make. But the status quo, at times, can be more detrimental to us than anything that can possibly result from embracing change.
In our personal lives, sticking with the status quo can cause inertia or apathy which can lead to us foregoing new experiences and the gaining of knowledge that can open up our lives to brighter days. Take for example the subject of employment – there may be many of us who are not fully satisfied with our current jobs but at the same time, we would be hesitant (or flat out refuse) to take a course of study that could offer us a new set of skills. These acquired skills could potentially to take us further in our current jobs or they might even give us the opportunity to add an additional source of income and/or a new and exciting chapter to our lives.
In business, sticking with the status quo can result in a lack of innovation and this will eventually lead to a stalling of the company and ultimately, to its demise. It is one thing to stick to your recipe for success – the ‘magic’ formula that you have used to get the company off the ground – but when it is simply about sticking to the familiar and to the known, you may miss opportunities to fully satisfy your customers’ changing needs. A well-known example of this is the Kodak company. Did you know that Kodak was one of the most innovative companies within the film and photography space and that one of its employees actually invented the digital camera back in the 1970s? Did you also know that because the company was doing so well in film technologies, its leadership at the time squashed the digital camera product out of fear that it would cannibalize and destroy its successful film business? We all know how the story goes – several of Kodak’s competitors embraced the uncertainty of the new digital era and within a few short years, Kodak found itself on the outskirts of the industry it practically created and it reached the unfortunate point of bankruptcy.
Leaders challenge the status quo. Within their personal lives and within the organizations that they lead. They understand that despite the presumed uncertainty, greatness lies on the outside of the status quo. They are not afraid of taking chances and venturing out into the unknown. They are cognizant of the reality of failure but they see it from the perspective of opportunities for learning and development. It is said that nothing great is ever achieved by doing things the way they have always been done and this is so very true in leadership.
When leaders step outside of the comforts of the status quo, they open themselves and their followers to new horizons and new possibilities. What if the great explorers of old stayed true to the status quo and viewed the earth as flat, so that if they travelled too far in one direction, they would fall off the edge? If they hadn’t pushed themselves and their crews to the visible horizon and beyond, we might never have recognized the true shape of our planet and it is possible that greater levels of exploration may never have occurred. True leaders understand that boundaries are in fact expandable – they are not rigid and unmoveable – and the organization which embraces this concept, is the one that will never cease developing and growing.
I want to challenge us today to take a closer look at our personal lives – where are we simply subscribing to the status quo and thereby limiting our individual growth and improvement? What new skills can we learn? What bold decisions can we make that can change our lives for the better? In the succinct but effective words of Nike – just do it! And for those of us who are leaders in Government, business or society, how about we look at pushing the envelope a bit more? There is greatness just on the outskirts of the status quo but we must be willing to take that one step further if we will have the chance at embracing it.
(Davidson Ishmael holds a MBA in Leadership and Innovation and is an operations manager in the financial services sector.