Beyond "How To"

By Erik Van Slyke

How to love. How to live. How to fix anything. How to lose weight. How to stop worrying. How to train your dog, bird, cat or dragon. How to manage projects. How to manage time. How to set goals. How to influence people. How to negotiate anything with anybody. How to survive the zombie apocalypse.

Beyond-how-tos-books-stackedWe live in a "how-to” world. A quick search of “how to” in Amazon.com yields over 800,000 books and videos with the phrase in the title. The popular For Dummies series has over 2,500 titles and the Idiot’s Guide series has nearly as many. And take a look at your local newsstand and you’ll see covers littered with articles telling you the 5 things you must know, the 3 insider secrets that will guarantee success, or the 7 steps to improved performance.

We love quick solutions that are easy to identify and implement. It is comforting to think that the answer to all our problems—with romance, with money, with business—can be provided with a few simple action steps or the application of a “best practice.”

We know through our own experience, however, that the "how tos" don’t always solve the problem because they rarely have the depth required to affect complex organizational challenges over the longer term. The quick fix might get us part of the way there or solve the problem momentarily, but inevitably we revisit the same issue again and again looking for another band-aid to stop the bleeding.

Here’s the deal...leading change well is not about a quick fix. It’s about a mindset. It’s not about a multitasking shortcut or a cell phone app. It’s about consistently applying the behavioral disciplines of listening, understanding, adapting, learning, changing, creating, inventing, and engaging.

So, go ahead and stock up on the tools, templates, technologies and how-to manuals. They will help you get started and be a reference when you get stuck. But then, let go. Roll up your sleeves, dig a little deeper, let your mind take flight, color outside of the lines, play, innovate and have fun with the real, collaborative work required to create sustainable change.

Topics: change management

Erik Van Slyke

Written by Erik Van Slyke