Stephen Covey's death last week got me thinking about change, so I made a Web search on "Everything changes but change itself," and found the real quotation, "Everything flows, nothing stands still,"(Herakleitos; Heraclitus) of Ephesus (c.535 BC - 475 BC).
The Web articles ascribed various versions to JFK, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, and Will Rogers, but I think Heraclitus' is a good choice to cite as the original. Nowadays even change changes so fast it's hard to track. Take a look at Time Magazine’s piece on BlackBerry’s tumble; it’s in the July 16th issue. Over the last couple of years, RIM, BlackBerry’s producer and the company that invented the Crackberry lifestyle, has dropped from 50 to 11 percent share of the market it invented. I’d like to think they’ll be back, like Xerox, Ford and IBM, all industry starters who faded and then reinvented themselves. It’s not guaranteed, though. RIM will have to invent a new kind of change for itself, soon.
A few years ago I attended my daughter’s graduation from Rockford College in Illinois. One of the commencement speakers told the grads to look around. “The people you’re sitting with will have an average of five careers each,” he said, “and two of them haven’t even been invented yet.” Yup, they’ll have to change, and the kind of change they’ll have to make hasn’t yet been invented. His point was that a liberal arts degree, which is basically learning to learn, is the best preparation for an unpredictable life.
It’s a very good thought, but personally, I’m happy with an engineering degree or a journeyman’s card. A technical background teaches us to constantly bend and re-bend industry into the sequence of shapes that our customers, investors, and legislators demand. The pace of change in those shapes is accelerating. It’s scary, but it also means more work for us, figuring out how to make all those changes with the safety, ecological stewardship, and efficiency that our consciences and our stakeholders demand.
Stephen Covey was all about riding the energy of change, rather than becoming its victim. He reinvented the publishing and calendar companies that bear his name. He was also a tireless author and blogger, helping the rest of us to apply the philosophy he developed and shared. He helped a lot of us manage the challenges that a changing business world constantly sends our way.
Here is a link to Business Insider’s compressed version of Covey’s "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" – http://www.businessinsider.com/stephen-coveys-7-habits-of-highly-effective-people-2012-7. The book sold 20 million copies. Rest in peace, changemeister.