Greetings. During lunch at Panera this past weekend our son Noah asked if his mother and I would ever get divorced. It was an honest question from an eleven-year-old who sees that the parents of several of his friends are no longer together. "No, Mamma and I will be together for as long as people eat chocolate," I replied. A comparison intended to allay his fears that divorce was a likely event for people with children. "But why do people get divorced anyway?" he wondered, "and, why will you and Mamma stay together forever?" "I don't really know the answer for other people," I responded, "because being married is a lot of work and sometimes people feel that they've tried their hardest and they need a change. But I can say why I think that Mamma and I will always stay together (or at least until the world runs out of chocolate) and I guess it's all about what we've decided is most important in life for us."
"And what's that?" he continued.
"Being close and caring about each other no matter what," I suggested. "Putting family first and always being in each other's corner. Being together as a couple. And sharing a set of core values as a guide to getting through life's little (and big) challenges and frustrations. And making a commitment to learn, change, and grow together."
"So I guess you'd think that change is good but unchange is good too," Noah suggested in his very clear and insightful way. "You change and you don't change together."
Which started me thinking about just how important this idea is to the success of companies and organizations of all types. The notion that some things need to change in order for us to be successful for the long haul. These include the things we have to offer, the value we deliver to customers, the way we find and inspire our people, the way we leverage new technologies, the way we expand to unlock new market opportunities, and the way we learn and share knowledge and possibilities. And the equally important notion that some things should never change in order for us to be successful for the long haul. These are the "core values" on which we build our business and base our most fundamental decisions. Values like honesty and integrity, a commitment to the highest quality, a determination to support and bring out the genius in all of our people, a passion for innovation, an unwavering focus on the needs of our customers, a passion for the importance of learning–and any other core beliefs that are essential to who we are and what we hold dear.
Change is essential.
And so is "unchange."
We win in business and in life when we embrace the necessity of change and unchange. They might in fact be the two most important things we ever learn from the experience of living or from the words of a young man growing up too fast.
Cheers and wishes for a week ahead filled with change, unchange, and plenty of chocolate!