Appearing at Partner Connect 2019 Day Two, the Emergent CEO offered her advice on how business leaders can embrace change and set course for a more successful tomorrow.
Holly Ransom knows a thing or two about managing change in life and in business.
As the chief executive of Emergent, a company specialising in disruptive strategy and building the capacity of leaders to execute change, Ransom has developed her career along the themes of innovation and disruption.
Named one of Australia’s ‘100 Most Influential Women’ by the Australian Financial Review, Ransom has delivered a Peace Charter to the Dalai Lama, interviewed Barack Obama on stage and was Sir Richard Branson’s nominee for Wired Magazine’s ‘Smart List’ of Future Game Changers to watch in 2017.
To say that Ransom has some wisdom to share on the topic of change management is a severe understatement, which is why the attendees at MYOB Partner Connect 2019 were eager to hear her keynote presentation on the subject.
Ransom began her presentation by highlighting the challenge presented by a world undergoing significant disruption.
“In 1898, the US Patent Office came out and said that everything that could be invented, had been invented.
“Which is effectively like saying: ‘Hey everybody, put down your tools, let’s go to the pub – humankind has peaked.”
Ransom asked the audience to contrast that statement against all the change and innovation they’ve witnessed in their lives over just the past 18 months.
“We can’t afford complacency,” she said. “We can’t afford US Patent Office mentality to creep in.”
Things are moving faster and people are expecting brands to move with the same speed, and that has real impacts for things like customer response times, as just one example.
Beyond the technological rate of change, Ransom also highlighted the intergenerational change that’s occurring as another factor to consider.
“We have an ageing population, and that’s an important conversation, but we also need to look at the equation with two lenses,” she said.
“By 2016 the millennial cohort became the largest generation in the Australian workforce.
“Right now, they’re around 37 percent, and by 2025, they’ll be two-thirds of the Australian workforce.”
According to Ransom – a millennial herself – this generation wants to work differently. They’re also generally less trusting.
It’s the issue of trust that brought Ransom to her final point about the forces of disruption and change in our transformative world.
Here she cites the Edelman Trust Barometer, which shows the deterioration of consumer trust in brands, politics and media over time.
“This is effectively the consciousness that this generation has grown up with.
“That means we have to work harder to ensure that they can feel they can trust us.”
As the world has changed, so are the ways we approach work, and Ransom is eyeing a significant paradigm shift in our approach.
“The definition of insanity is thinking we can keep doing the same thing, when everything is changing, and think we can get a different result.
“How can we get a different result?
“I want to identify the building blocks of change – and that is habits.”
Ransom believes the small, repetitive behaviours that people perform on a daily basis are a far more powerful force for change than any quick fix.
“Relative to our goals and aspirations, and the way the world is changing, are our habits still serving the results we’re in pursuit of or do we have to change it up?”
For some, the change is already here and it’s evident in the way people are approaching how they think about their work.
“We’re moving out of an old paradigm into a new paradigm,” said Ransom.
“There’s a model for the way we worked in the industrial age that is broken relative to the way the world is demanding we work in 2019.”
“How do we start seeing life as a series of sprints?”
People are talking about ‘healthy stress’ versus ‘unhealthy stress’, ‘productive downtime’, ‘change fatigue’ and more as we struggle to come to terms with how we can adapt to a rapidly changing business environment.
It’s at this point that the practical nature of Ransom’s advice came to the fore, as she lay out a method for leveraging change.
The method relies on a reframing of what the way we think of fears in our lives.
“Something’s happened to the word ‘fear’ in our culture,” Ransom said.
“It’s become sensationalised, which means we have become desensitised to how it can turn up in daily life,” she said.
Ransom described fear as also being the many actions and activities people tend to shy away from in their day to day existence, preferring to exist within their comfort zone instead.
The area outside of a person’s comfort zone is their “courage zone” — an area populated by the habits we could (and should pursue), but tend not to.
“Between comfort and courage is the red line of resistance – the thing I want everyone to think about.”
The entire model Ransom describes as the “strength wheelhouse”, which she believes can act as a good model for planning behavioural growth.
“The best part about this is the amazing reward for effort you receive when you do the think you’re afraid of – your comfort zone expands.
“It’s just like being in the gym building a muscle – as your comfort zone expands, so situations you weren’t comfortable with before suddenly become easier.”
But, as Ransom pointed out, there’s no point going after big behavioural shifts all at once.
Instead, business owners and entrepreneurs should consider a more incremental approach.
“You’ve heard of Minimum Viable Product? I’d like to propose Minimum Viable Habits as a model for how we can go about dealing with change in our life and work,” said Ransom.
It’s a method that’s designed to work for our modern, busy lifestyles.
If workers are busy with their day-to-day, trying to enact large change quickly is more likely to fail.
Instead, Ransom suggests the “24-7-1” approach.
“The idea is that, within 24 hours of hearing this information, you need to take an initial bite-sized action step.
“The action is meant to be so small that it’s inexcusable you didn’t get it done in 24 hours.”
She recommends that step might be as simple as drawing up your own strength wheelhouse with all the things that are within your comfort zone and all the things you’d like to achieve that lie in your courage zone.
“Then, within seven days, you take a bigger step again.
“Within one month you’ve got to take a bigger action step again.”
This is Ransom’s blueprint for building minimum viable habits; something she says can be just as useful for teams as it for individuals, in work or life in general.
“Once you’ve gone through 24-7-1 once, then you roll it forward into a whole new one.
“And that’s because the single greatest ally we’ve got in trying for change is momentum.”
So, what would your strength wheelhouse and 24-7-1 action plan look like today?