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I first heard this shrieking admonishment early in my career, nearly 30 years ago. I’ve heard it dozens of times since.

I thought it was crap advice then, and I still do. Here’s why:

Change or die

“CHANGE OR DIE” is a blanket statement. It says everyone needs massive change. This is irresponsible, and potentially dangerous. Certainly your business has strengths that needn’t be changed, but leveraged.

“CHANGE OR DIE” is ignorant of the landscape. Some industries and sectors just don’t change that rapidly. To ignore the environment is to craft bad strategy.

“CHANGE OR DIE” is too vague to be useful. Change which aspects of my business? To what exactly? And how? And why?

“CHANGE OR DIE” is a form of fear-mongering. It’s an attempt to scare you. Good decisions are rarely made in a state of fear. 

“CHANGE OR DIE” doesn’t give you credit for your intelligence. You’re well aware of the challenges you’re facing. And you know you need to take action.    

What’s Really Going On

Sure, this kind of “sky is falling” approach is good for getting press. (For the same reason, every few months someone announces that branding, or marketing, or <insert-concept-here> is “dead.”) The most extreme views get the most clicks.

I suggest considering the motivations of the source. Those who sell you fear are usually also trying to sell you something else.

“CHANGE OR DIE”? Everyone calm down. Allow me to propose a more sensible approach:

“Act with purpose.”

I’ll share more on what I mean by “act with purpose” in next week’s post.

P.S. Am I arguing that all change is a bad thing? Of course not. As business leaders, we are here to create positive change. But I’m arguing for deliberate, purposeful change – not abrupt, fear-based change.

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About Matthew Fenton: Matthew is a former CMO who helps brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He’s based near Portland, in Oregon wine country.

Copyright 2020 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.