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Overcoming the Resistance to Change. Step 1: Find Yourself A Burning Platform. Step 2: Jump!

World Speed Climbing Championship Wall, Chamonix, France. (I wasn't on this one)

Step 1: Find Yourself A Burning Platform. Step 2: Jump!

I’m afraid of heights. In fact I’m terrified of heights. Yet 2 days ago I found myself climbing a sheer wall 10m above the hard ground, my fingers clinging grimly to a pathetic handhold and my toes digging into a thin ledge. My straining muscles ached, I was sweating profusely and my strength was draining away. Even worse, I couldn’t find the next handhold, my feet were in the wrong position and I dared not look down. I knew I was going to fall.

2nd attempt: bouldering at the Kletterzentrum, Zurich (Schlieren), Switzerland.

Business Analogy: “Find Yourself A Burning Platform”

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the phrase “find yourself a burning platform”. It comes from the 1988 Piper Alpha tragedy in the North Sea when a drilling rig exploded resulting in the loss of many lives. Survivors described how they jumped from the burning rig into the sea. The choice: certain death from the flames of the exploding rig, or the slim chance of surviving the massive jump and then the possibility of staying alive in the freezing North Sea. This phrase is now used to describe an action in business where you are forced to act because the alternative is worse.

Our Resistance To Change

The burning platform metaphor alludes to the fact that people tend to resist change; they don’t like it and only change when there is a crisis. In other words we tend to stick to our comfort zone. Often it is only an external pressure that forces us to act differently. Ideally, a business should try and build flexibility and adaptability into its workforce and procedures so that it can change before it reaches a state of crisis and has to jump.

Relief

As for me, the moment passed, I found the next handhold. I got my feet in a better position. I made it to the top of the wall. Relief and exhilaration surged through me. I’d done it.

Compelling Reasons For Change

How did I get myself in this ridiculous situation? Well, you may well laugh and rightly so; a beautiful Brazilian girl invited me to go climbing. How could I possibly refuse? After some expert tuition she challenged me to climb to the top of the high wall. In that moment, my fear of failure surpassed my fear of heights. I resolved that I would climb the wall and I would reach the top. The alternative of not impressing the girl was infinitely worse. So in that moment I found my own burning platform and jumped.

After completing the via ferrata on the Mer-de-Glace, Chamonix

Further Reading:

Ellis, W. (2011) “What Is Our Emotional Response To Change” (online) Available: http://wp.me/p1RUDq-E

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