By Robert Jones
EAP Trainer, The Village Business Institute
September is a month of change. Summer gives way to fall. Parents wrap up the summer break and send their kids back to school. For some families, it marks the culmination of their in-home parenting as children pack up to start their life in college.
When I talk about change, I am not just speaking of the seasonal change that puts an end to the warm sunny weather of summer and brings the frigid snow-covered tundra of winter. I’m thinking bigger. The world is changing rapidly, and we as a society can often barely hold on amid this change. I am reminded of this every year when Beloit College releases its annual “List.” Beloit College is a small (about 1200-student) liberal arts school in Beloit, Wisc. Most people around the country have never even heard of this school, but every year social media is inundated with the “Beloit College List.”
The Beloit College list is an annual change in mindset to help professionals in higher education gain a better understanding of the incoming freshman at any college. This is a list of things, events, or people that these students have not participated in or have missed because they were not a part of this world. For example, here are a few from the list for the Class of 2019:
- “Hybrid automobiles have always been mass-produced.”
- “They have never licked a postage stamp”
- “They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.”
- “If you say “around the turn of the century,” they may well ask you, “which one?”
I do not mention these to make people feel old, even though that is often a byproduct of reading this list. I mention it as a reminder that change brings innovation. Think about this: in the past 20 years we have gone from VHS tapes, to DVD, to Blue Ray, and we can now watch any movie, almost anytime, anywhere on a variety of devices.
Our attitude toward change is interesting. In certain areas, we embrace it. We often want the latest material thing, (e.g. the newest iPhone, smartwatch, etc.). But we can be very hesitant about change in other areas. For many people, the phrase “This is how we have always done things” is common in the workplace. Businesses where this phrase prevails will struggle to keep their staff engaged and may struggle to keep quality people.
Employers who are not afraid of change and who are willing to embrace the ideas of employees are the organizations that move to the forefront of their communities and industries. The company that encourages employees to challenge “how we have always have done it,” is the company that develops a new approach and moves the industry forward. There is some truth to the belief that one idea can change an industry.
Starbucks is perfect example of how an experience and an idea can lead to huge change. As the story goes, Howard Schultz began working for Starbucks in 1981. At the time, Starbucks was a fledgling coffee shop in the historic Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash. While on a trip to Italy, Schultz began to experience (yes, experience) the power of coffee on a community and the variation of coffee drinks. When Schultz returned to Seattle, he presented this drastic change to the owners of Starbucks and was told, “That is not how we do coffee.” In 1987, the owners of Starbucks offered Schultz the opportunity to buy the company for $3.8 million. He jumped at the opportunity, and the rest you can see in just about every community in the country. The idea of grabbing a latte in your way to work was unheard of by many in 1980, yet today there is a line at least five cars deep every morning at every Starbucks in the nation. Schultz is still determined to find ways to innovate and change for the betterment of the staff and community of Starbucks because he isn’t bound by the old notion: “We have always done it this way.”
I am always amazed when I read the Beloit List because I think of where I have been and what I have experienced. As I look at those moms at Walmart buying the last of the “essentials” before they “abandon” their baby boy at college, I become excited about the future and watching the direction we as a society are going. I wonder what the Beloit List of 2037 is going to say. Maybe “They’ve always ridden in flying cars,” “They are a generation that has never know cancer or war,” or “They’ve never seen a Twins team have a losing season.” Who knows what the future holds? But if we empower people to think big and grow, the only way we can go is up.
About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and recently began working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership. Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.
The Village Business Institute provides a range of services to make businesses better, including employee assistance programs, coaching, organizational development and strategic planning, workplace mediation, human resource consultation, critical incident stress management, management and employee training, career transition and outplacement services, and specialized services for nonprofits.