The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions. – Niccolò Machiavelli
What does that mean?
This quote is about the difficulties faced by a new ruler. With a new ruler come new rules, and the status quo is overturned.
Those who have been doing well, the quote says, are going to be less than thrilled with the changes being brought about. They are the most likely to oppose the new order, out of self-interest (enlightened or otherwise).
Those who have a chance of doing well under the new order will not be as likely to match the emotional intensity and willingness to fight as those who are upset with the changes.
The quote is therefore a warning to those who are going to be changing things to be careful of those who would stand to lose when things change. Whether you’re a politician, a new CEO (or any level of business leader), or just the new kid on the block.
Why is caution in times of change important?
This quote reminds me of another old saying referring to the status quo: “Don’t upset the apple cart.” You need to be careful when you make changes, or you might make a mess of things. This applies to nearly everything in life, from business, to family, to politics, to lovers and friends.
While change is necessary in life, caution can pay dividends if you can avoid upsetting the apple cart in the process. This caution doesn’t mean you don’t move forward with changes, it means that you give due consideration to what might transpire, and make allowances for those who might lose out in the change.
By being considerate, you can ally fears, and make allies instead of enemies. How many times has Disney used this in their “Mom meets Dad” movies, where the children are those who have to be won over in the new order of relationships? Have you seen the same thing when a new boss takes over at work?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Well, as mentioned in the prior section, there are times when the family order changes, whether it’s someone new entering the family, or a change in the way things work due to moving, scheduling changes, or other complications. Ever been there? I have, and it’s no fun as either the child or as the adult.
Also mentioned was the changes that occur at work when there is a change in management. It doesn’t typically matter why the prior boss left, just how the new boss is going to do things, how they are going to change things.
Everyone who was used to doing things the old way, they are the potential enemies of the new boss. The boss has to try to reassure everyone that things will continue with minimum disruption, while still making the necessary changes to the organization. Not an easy task.
Where in your life are you an innovator? It could be something as simple as getting the kids back to school, or as complex as trying to blend two families into one.
Ever been invited to a party and found that one or two people immediately take a disliking to you? It might be you, but it’s probably them. You are a threat to how things are presently working. You are something new, and a potential challenge to what they are used to, to the old conditions.
From the standpoint of the person innovating, there will almost always be some resistance to change. Someone was doing well under the old system, so they (at least) will push back. For me, the closest thing to a solution for this challenge is to try to understand the people involved.
Once you understand a little about the people involved, you can begin to find out what their specific objections are to the new order of things. From there, it’s up to you to come up with the proper argument to convince them to cooperate.
For some, that will involve logic, for other it may involve more emotion. Still others are only interested in power, money, or position. Once you have an idea who you are dealing with, what they value, and how they are motivated, you can move forward with your attempts to convince them to help instead of hinder you.
On the other side, if someone else is changing things, try to remember that they are doing so for their reasons, not for yours. Don’t try to guess why, ask them. Explain why you prefer the old ways, and ask them to explain how the new ways are better for you, or the greater good. Then you will have to decide if you will cooperate, or be the enemy of the new order.
I would remind everyone that change happens. Life is full of it (change, that is). If you start opposing change for the simple sake of maintaining what you are used to, you will spend the rest of your life fighting a losing battle.
Similarly, embracing change for the sake of change is equally foolish, and I would caution against that as well. Change is best done when there is an obvious advantage in the change, and that advantage, when properly explained, will win over many, but not all.