It is time to Embody the traits of a Creative Change Leader
Change is an ever-present force in life and plays a vital role in shaping our future. Change can be crippling. Think about the last time you felt like the rug was pulled from underneath you. I am sure you had feelings of uncertainty, but once you embraced the uncertainty and fear you also saw the possibilities. Imagine that feeling but at a collective society level. We know that rash decisions are not the way. It is never good to react, but to get curious and understand the situation that disrupts and pulls the rug from beneath. What is it and what might be all the way that we can embrace it to better our society? The questions we must ask ourselves and discuss collectively must come from curiosity.
Change has always scared people. Nowak cites many instances in time where people feared the new and innovative. Socrates felt like writing anything down meant that memory would suffer and thinking for oneself would decline. The printing press would mean information overload and be harmful for people. Electricity in the house meant fear of death by electrocution (Nowak, 2018). I remember a time in the 90’s when people questioned the value of the internet and we now see how that changed the way we live. My point is, while change can be the catalyst for growth and progress, it can also bring fear and anxiety to many individuals. Some individuals are quick to reject new ideas and innovations without fully considering their potential benefits, opting instead to stick with what they know and understand.
Today, we laugh and think how silly the people must have been to not see the value and fear technologies that have shaped our world. How silly it must have been to be afraid of lights, plumbing, cars, airplanes, radio, televisions, internet, calculators and so many more inventions that we take for granted today were once the source of fear for many.
A VUCA World
There will always be something new. Our world is completely different than 5 years ago. The rate of change today feels dizzying. The US army coined the term VUCA to explain the world we live in today. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. This all boils down to our world being different and our challenges today are difficult. To break it down simply:
- Volatile means that things can change quickly and unexpectedly, just like the weather can change suddenly from sunny to rainy… Or a pandemic, can knock us off our regular programming.
- Uncertain means that it’s hard to know what will happen in the future, just like it’s hard to guess what you’ll get for your birthday…. Or thinking about how AI will change our world.
- Complex means that there are many parts to a problem and it’s hard to understand how they all fit together, like a puzzle with a lot of pieces… Or how we need to make sense of things we know nothing about and quick!
- Ambiguous means that things are not clear or easy to understand, like a picture that’s hard to see because it’s blurry… Or trusting that getting many brains together, we can all see more parts of the puzzle to help with this.
The Diffusion of Innovation
I know some people are happy living with their day to day, going with the flow, denying reality and the change it brings. In 1962, Everett Rogers developed the Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory describing how innovations are adopted by society (Rogers, 2023). He noted there are five established categories each with their own type of characteristics. Innovators who want to be first, Early Adopters who are opinion leaders, Early Majority who need evidence before adoption, Late Majority who adopt after the majority, and Laggards who are traditional and conservative and the hardest to adopt change. Each group has unique characteristics and needs different strategies for adoption. Understanding this theory provides a useful framework for managing the adoption of new technology and its implications for organizations, policymakers, and individuals. It is also important to note that this theory also explains how adoption of an innovation is influenced by five factors: Relative Advantage (perceived improvement over previous), Compatibility (fit with values and needs), Complexity (ease of understanding and use), Triability (ability to test), and Observability (tangible results). These factors vary in their impact on the five adopter categories, but it is important to note these factors as a change leader.
Recently, we are at a critical disruption to life as we know it with the introduction of generative AI to the masses. November 30, 2022 was the turning point in AI. Before then it was something that was of interest to a group of people interested in new technologies, computer science, etc. But after that date, the rest of us got a taste of the powers of AI. One was a text to image generator called DALLE and the other a language model with 175 billion parameters and the ability to generate human-like text so you feel like you are chatting with someone. On using it the first time, I was awe-struck. I was left with wonder. I wanted to learn how it did that? What was the technology behind this? How can I use this to help me be more productive? How can I use this technology to help me solve problems.
My interaction with it left me coming back for more. Every day since then, I have used it to help me overcome writers’ block, help me work through problems, help me create lesson plans for my class. It is now 2 months since I logged into OpenAI’s platform and I have discovered and explored many more AI options and I can say that I have fully developed an interest in AI and I know in my core that if everyone gave it a chance they would see how this inevitable shift and disruption will change the world. We cannot close our eyes to this.
In the book, Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World, Johansen urges us that immersion is a key learning skill that we must embrace (Johansen, 2012). Leaders need to foresee how we can’t close our eyes to this but instead see how we can harness it. I am specifically concerned with the field of education and their reaction to the adoption of AI. Schools are banning the use, threatening the students, and closing their eyes to the potential and possibilities. School leaders are scared, and they should be. Our world is different, let’s pull our head out of the sand and face it head on.
AI is emerging and shaping the world in new and exciting ways and it has the potential to change society in ways that we can’t yet fully comprehend. From automating tasks to improving medical diagnoses and personalizing shopping experiences, the possibilities are seemingly endless. However, just like with previous innovations, the widespread adoption of AI will likely bring about new challenges and fears, as well as opportunities for growth and progress.
So what do we do? We embrace it – we have no choice in the matter. Whether it is now or later, AI is here and we need to get curious about it so that we can make sense of it. We can learn all about how AI works, understand it and even see the implications of it but that knowledge will make no difference if we are not checking our attitudes about it. What are we scared of? Change is scary, when I go off the deep end in thought I sometimes even get scared about the implications of AI but I know in my heart that it isn’t going away, so what are we going to do about it? For starters, embracing the mindset and attitudes of a creative leader is paramount to help lead others through this VUCA world.
Johansen, B. (2012). Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World (Second Edition, Second Edition,Revised and Expanded with Tools and Resources). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Nowak, P. (2018, January 19). Boo! A brief history of technology scares. Macleans.ca. https://www.macleans.ca/society/technology/boo-a-brief-history-of-technology-scares/
Rogers, E. M. (2023). Diffusion of Innovations 5th (fifth) edition.
Teacher Demographics and Statistics : Number Of Teachers In The US. (2022, September 9). https://www.zippia.com/teacher-jobs/demographics/
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This post was written by a human with a little help from AI.