In the 1800’s, the British Army faced the machine gun for the first time. At that time, the British battle strategy was to attack the enemy by walking in long, straight rows while wearing brightly colored uniforms. As you might imagine, that kind of strategy made it easy for the enemy’s gun to mow down the British soldiers. In the initial confrontation with the gun, 500 British soldiers were killed or seriously injured in a matter of minutes.

The British field commander saw the devastation and sent the following communication back to headquarters, “Send me 500 more men!” You’d be amazed at how many people are approaching the changes in corporate America today in the same way the British Commander did then.

I travel around the world and work with dozens of corporations and associations each year. It’s interesting to analyze the approaches they take to change. I’ve discovered there are six possible approaches from which to choose. 


1.   The Avoidant Approach – “I ignore change. I have no idea what’s happening!” Using surfing as a metaphor, avoidant people go to the beach of life and stick their heads in the sand.

2.   The Apathetic Approach – “I sit and watch change. It’s happening, but I don’t care.” Apathetic people go to the beach of life, sit on the bench, grumble to themselves and watch everyone else swim and surf.

3.   The Resistant Approach – “I fight change. It shouldn’t be happening!” Resistant people go to the beach or life, paddle out on their surfboards and search the ocean for big waves they don’t like. When they see one, they stand up on their surfboards and scream at the wave, “ Get out of here!” Two seconds later the wave hits them head-on and slams them into the water. 4.   The Reactive Approach – “I adjust to change after it happens. It’s happening, and I’m making reactive internal changes!” Reactive people go to the beach of life, paddle out on their surfboards, look away from the waves, get hit from behind by a big one and get knocked off their boards.

5.   The Anticipatory Approach – ” I have a good idea what’s going to happen, and I’m making adjustments proactively.” Proactive people go to the beach of life, paddle out on their surfboards, study the incoming waves and start paddling before the wave gets to them. Now they can ride the wave of change.

6.   The Creative Approach – “I initiate change. I use change to shape the world around me.” Creative people go to the beach of life, paddle out on their surfboards and make their own waves. Now they can ride on waves of their own making and other people have to respond to them.

The avoidant, apathetic, and resistant approaches to the changes seem safe because they maintain the status quo. They don’t require you making the tough decisions concerning the direction of your organization. In the long run, they’re the most dangerous of all because they lead to the world passing you by as you sit on the wooden bench of life, complaining about the splinters. Your people need to have specific and powerful skills in the Reactive, Anticipatory and Creative Approaches for you to harness the power of change.

Dr. Nate Booth is the author of the books, Thriving on Change: The Art of Using Change to Your Advantage and Strategies for Fast-Changing Times. He has presented over 1600 keynotes, seminars and workshops to audiences around the world.  For more information on Nate, contact or call 877-974-6972.


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