I started 2017 will a couple of posts about reinvention (here and here). Fittingly, Recode published a look into Instagram’s reinvention. The story goes that a few years ago, Instagram was seeing a dip in sharing and engagement on their platform. Driving this change was the mass of brands and celebrities sharing and promoting as much as they can, lowering the quality of friend and family interaction Instagram became known for; the user experience they set out to create with Instagram.
To counter this challenge, Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom, decided to take matters into his own hands to catalyze change. It all started with questioning assumptions:
“[There was] a change in philosophy internally of not being too precious about what got us here,” Systrom explained. “I learned a lesson from watching other companies who held onto things too long. If you look at the history of companies that have succeeded and the ones that have failed, there’s a pretty clear pattern that the ones that have succeeded typically morph every couple of years into something new. And that change is fairly uncomfortable.”
Change is hard because something is always left behind
Change and innovation is about subtraction, you have to lose in order to gain. More importantly, working to prevent change makes you an obstacle, not a leader.
There are various reasons why people resist new technologies, the main one is loss aversion. Similarly, leaders and their organizations resist change because they’re afraid of losing what got them to their present point.
Fear of losing is such a deep trigger that risk-averse leaders ask, “what will we lose if this doesn’t work?” Bold leaders, on the other hand, ask, “what will we lose if we don’t change?”
The distinction is clear: Smart leaders reframe change as an opportunity.
And an opportunity it is, because change is the only constant; especially in a world where technology is transforming every industry. Challenging startups understand this intuitively, because they don’t start their journey from a “nothing to lose, everything to gain” mindset.
Framing change as an opportunity changes your potential results, because it forces you to shift your perspective and change your behavior. The leaders, and organizations, best suited to changing themselves are learners; they question assumptions and challenge the status quo.
Bottom line: Changing before you have to is the real challenge of leadership. Smart and innovative leaders, the ones that morph themselves and their organizations, do so by understanding that what got you here won’t get you there, facing the facts and challenging assumptions.