It’s a myth that companies can change exponentially – here’s why that matters

In a world of constant and fast change, demonstrating foresight and taking risks to find new business models and markets are excellent as long as you don’t take things too far. Never let exponential thinking take over the change processes in your company in such a way that they become like a kind of dogma. In fact, you often hear it said at congresses and seminars: ‘If you want to keep up to speed as a company, you have to change exponentially’.

If the world changes exponentially, does your company need to follow?

But is this true? The world might be changing exponentially, but does your company have to do the same? Well, no. In fact, in my opinion it is a myth to believe that companies are capable of changing exponentially. To say that a company must change exponentially is the same as saying that there must be constant change, all the time. That’s fine and might even be fun for a small start-up, but in larger companies non-stop change only leads to chaos. And chaos solves nothing. Precisely the opposite.

Evolution is a constant in the environment. But that does not mean that you need to continually overturn or move the basic building blocks of your company. If you do that, your entire organizational structure will come tumbling down. Non-stop change weakens the foundations that ensure the stability of your company. Besides, constant technological change is a massively expensive business. Very few companies can afford to make this change on an almost daily basis.

What you need is the right dynamic balance between preservation and renewal, between development and production. If a process works well, that’s great! Make sure you keep it and don’t ditch it unnecessarily.

Humans cannot change exponentially

And like companies, it is also impossible for human beings to change exponentially. Our brains just keep getting in the way. Human behaviour does not evolve exponentially in the same manner as technology, but evolves discontinuously, in leaps and bounds. People only summon up the courage to change if they can see some point in it and feel safe with it. Even then, it takes time before they come to terms with it and accept it fully. What’s more, different people take the step toward change at different times: there are early adopters, followers, laggards and critics. And since companies are made by people, company evolution also takes place in a succession of leaps and bounds.

‘Human behaviour does not evolve exponentially, but discontinuously, in leaps and bounds.’

The key to success lies in knowing what works and what doesn’t. You need to critically examine your traditions on a regular basis. What can you already change today in order to survive and thrive tomorrow and the day after tomorrow? But don’t forget that change for change’s sake is always counter-productive. You cannot force people to change. That never works. Change is only productive if you know precisely why you want to change. If you can explain this convincingly to your people and persuade them to share your vision of what the change is supposed to achieve, only then will they be willing to follow you.