Embrace the Joy of Pain

Dream big! Develop a vision! Identify your big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG)!
Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom. And, yes, that thinking has served some organizations well. But for most, the reality is that the vision or BHAG is a nice-to-do, not a viscerally compelling MUST-DO. Which raises a question: If a vision or BHAG doesn’t reliably drive change, then what does?
The experience or impending threat of pain. The psychology of human behavior – perhaps sad, but true – is that stopping or avoiding pain is a more powerful motivator that pursuing pleasure. Don’t believe me? Which would more likely cause you to change your diet and lose weight: knowing the benefits or lying in a hospital bed with a somber-looking doctor telling you that if you don’t change your ways you’ve got 6 months to live?
Spotlight the pain. How is your organization underperforming? What are your customers unhappy with? How is the competition beating you? Where are you throwing away money? And what is the downside if you don’t change your ways?
Yet what if you’re not experiencing pain? Then look ahead and anticipate the pain. What threats are coming down the track? New competitors? Emerging technologies? An economic downturn? Changing customer needs? Again, what is the downside if you don’t change your ways?
Articulate a case for change. Articulate the painful consequences of not changing. Then ask: Are those consequences acceptable? If not, then you don’t have a choice. You have to change.
Pain is your friend. Why? Because pain will force you to change in ways that make your organization stronger.
So, yes, dream big, create a vision. But if that’s not compelling you to change, then go to plan B. Embrace the joy of pain.
Make it happen.
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