It's early winter in Boston, the very beginning of the year, and I set out before dawn for my morning circuit of the Charles River's lower basin. The city is waking, preparing for the coming day, but the basin is still quiet.
Normally, I don't see the dawn, but I'm a little earlier than usual, and at this time of year, the sunrise is as late as it gets. As I come around the turn in the path below the Longfellow Bridge, I see a pink tinge in the clouds to my left. I realize that on this morning the view of the sunrise from the Cambridge bank will be striking. So I decide to follow my usual path, but in the opposite of my usual direction.
I cross the Longfellow Bridge, walking backwards much of the way, to face the sunrise. The sky in the East brightens steadily, and the clouds change from pink to red to a glorious orange. Walking upstream on the Cambridge side, I notice sunlight in the treetops, gradually working its way down to ground level. And then the sun falls directly on me. The beginning of the new day.
Beginnings can be filled with possibility — inspiring and exciting. And then letdown can follow, when our aspirations don't come to pass, or when we encounter obstacles that trip us up in frustratingly familiar ways.
Here are some tips for handling beginnings.
- You can't change the past
- At least one element from the past is always with us — ourselves. Life is repertoire — new efforts often involve many of the same people, who bring with them not only their experiences, but also the problems of the past. Fresh starts usually aren't really fresh.
- See things as they really are
- Beginnings can be filled
with possibility —
inspiring and exciting
- Events, like sunrises or new years, can seem more significant than they really are. When the sun rose over the Charles, the world didn't change — the city's birds kept singing and the river's waves kept waving. The flow of events is often more continuous than we recognize.
- Seek inspiration in the real
- When a transition of true significance arrives, it might not be marked by dramatic shifts in Nature, or astronomy, or the calendar. When we depend on the newness of the effort, or a new year, or a sunrise, to indicate significant transitions, we might let other important transitions pass unnoticed. Find inspiration in what's really happening, where the opportunity really lies.
- Focus on the truly new
- What is new is the chance to try again, this time with a memory of past experience. Maybe we've learned something. Maybe we can make different choices this time.
Helen Keller once said that when one door closes, another opens. But sometimes doors open all by themselves, often without our noticing them. Is a door opening for you? When did you last check? Top Next Issue
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More articles on Organizational Change:
- Look Before You Leap
- When we execute complex organizational change, we sometimes create disasters. It's ironic that even
in companies that test their products thoroughly, we rarely test organizational changes before we "roll
them out." We need systematic methods for discovering problems before we execute change efforts.
One approach that works well is the simulation.
- Kinds of Organizational Authority: the Formal
- A clear understanding of Power, Authority, and Influence depends on familiarity with the kinds of authority
found in organizations. Here's Part I of a little catalog of authority classes.
- Good Change, Bad Change: II
- When we distinguish good change from bad, we often get it wrong: we favor things that would harm us,
and shun things that would help. When we do get it wrong, we're sometimes misled by social factors.
- The Restructuring-Fear Cycle: II
- When enterprises restructure, reorganize, downsize, outsource, lay off, or make other organizational
adjustments, they usually focus on financial health. Here's Part II of an exploration of how the fear
induced by these changes can lead to the need for further restructuring.
- Motivation and the Reification Error
- We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as
if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.