As most within the newspaper industry have already done, I have spent countless hours contemplating why newspapers appear to be so risk adverse and slow to innovate. I have come to believe it really comes down to one basic and simple mindset, the mindset of change.
No, I don’t mean the simple act of just accepting change, most of us have figured out how to accept “forced upon us” change. What I mean is the real art of actually mastering change. I believe that by mastering the “Art of Change,” we can then become true change agents as we then begin seeking new opportunities in which we can master our new skill set. Make no mistake; mastering the “art of change” is far different than “accepting” change. Most of us can accept our fates, whatever they may be; but it is rare to find those that create their fates through the constant efforts to change.
This thought process reminds me of an experience I had nearly 10 years ago while a circulation director with another newspaper. In the mist of literally dozens of changes within our department in a relatively short period of time, I was accused by the managing editor and others of instigating and creating change just for the sake of change. My response was that they are absolutely correct, and I considered his statement an honour to be associated with. I went on to say, change is like any other talent that we must master, it must be routinely practiced in order for each of us and our staff to perfect the skillful art of change. Furthermore, learning to change on our terms was quite essential in order to meet the challenges and drastic changes that were sure to be coming in the future.
It was true; my plan of attack was to overwhelm the entire staff with change on every front, there was nowhere to turn to avoid change, they were forced to look change right in the eye and thus meet the challenges or decide the challenges weren’t for them. The end game was simple: an attempt to create an environment where change and the associated disruptions became second nature. Additionally, the goal was to change the mindset that tells us that “change is disruptive” to one of “change is exciting and the disruption is just a simple inconvenience.” You know you have made progress when a staff member comes to you and asks, what is the change this week?
As I look back on that experience and process I realise more so today than ever before the need to practice the change process is the true key to real innovation and the elimination of our risk apprehensions. We need to be looking for opportunities to foster change, whether it is constant redesigns in the newsrooms, incorporating new sales verticals in the advertising department, combining resources and synergies in the circulation department or any other vehicle that allows us to change.
Yes, constant change is here to stay and a part of our future. We can go the easy route, accepting the change as it hits us; or we can teach our staffs that change is meant to be controlled and mastered, practicing change on all fronts. By doing this, you will develop a true culture of change which will lead to a culture of innovation, along with the removal of the risk adverse attitudes that are killing the industry.