Coping with change

​Gareth is the founder of Welsh ICE (Innovation Centre for Excellence) and The CDF, a lifestyle newspaper and app showcasing news and events in Cardiff. 

One of the things that sets entrepreneurs apart from the crowd is their ability to adapt to a changing world.  They have an ability to live with uncertainty and discomfort and to thrive against the odds.

Change is in the air, as summer becomes autumn becomes winter, and as students go from the relaxed summer break life to the new university lifestyle and all its pressures. Those that can thrive and prosper in times of change are those who are best prepared for the new circumstances.

We are lucky at ICE to work in an environment where we are surrounded by people who are at their strongest when overcoming setbacks and planning for every scenario. In fact it is one of the reasons why we created ICE the place.  In the 'real world' it seems to be a race to find stability, the start-up world is about finding problems to solve before they find you.

Another important part of coping with change is knowing when to stand your ground rather than going with the flow.  You might be faced with situations where the scenario plays out against all logic, but you have to know what feels comfortable to you and either adjust to feel comfortable in the uncomfortable situation, or make your feelings heard to prevent disaster.  But I feel it is important to be clear with what you think is a preferred direction if you take this stand.  You need to solve negative problems with positive energy and solutions, not with more negativity.

A key strategy in the start-up world is to take an iterative stance, responding to feedback from your users, customers, or partner organisations, in order to improve your product or service.  Changing an idea that you feel strongly about is difficult, but you have to aim to create something bigger than your ego and which will outlast you.  Some world-changing inventions have been accidental, such as the microwave or Play-Doh, and as a result these innovations have changed the world in big or gentle ways.  But the ripple on the world has a longer lasting impact. Play-Doh revenues still grow year-on-year and Apple's share price is higher than it ever was in Steve Jobs' lifetime, after his return to save the failing company that he originally founded.

There is no such happily ever after, Hollywood movies like to paint a picture of every journey having a natural end or destination and in life as in business, this just isn't true.  As university goes on, there will be great times and difficult times, but you won't be able to stop and admire the moment for long before the next change and challenge comes along.  This is felt even more so in the start-up world when you get three kicks for every bit of good news and as a founder you feel every blow keenly.  The problem with expecting a conclusion is that there are always so many other things going on in life, other strands that never really end, they just fizzle out or come to nothing.  You will never have that day of standing on top of a mountain, or sat on a beach thinking "I've made it" or feeling truly satisfied, because your ambition will keep you moving forward, so don't get too disillusioned when you don't see the credits rolling.

It isn't just those with an aspiration to start a business who need to consider a willingness to change frequently. In Tony Hsieh's book, Delivering Happiness, he talks about his staff needing to not only fully understand the need to be ready for change and disruption, but to enjoy it and cause it themselves when they spot an opportunity to improve efficiency in the organisation.  It is an essential read if you want to understand the mentality of a true leader and the need for a clear culture in the modern corporate world.

Ecosystems are based on life and death, for new to come, old must go.  Some of the greatest centres of innovation in Cardiff are born out of the failure of other activities or companies.  A major digital TV company over a decade ago closed, with a number of incredibly talented individuals left to lick their wounds.  A decade on, these members of staff have been a draw for companies looking to attract staff with their unique skillset. 

Change is inevitable, and can cause untold disruption and distress, but we can only alter what we control, so take an attitude of embracing change and looking for opportunities to make the most of it.

Gareth is the founder of Welsh ICE