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17 January 2019
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Change is all around - do something useful with it

8 September 2014  

Embracing change is a positive thing, even if it sometimes means just recycling an old idea, blogs John Bowen

I often write here about change; it’s a constant that we embrace and resist in almost equal measure and while we can’t turn the clocks back we do effectively do that by reinventing something.

Does it matter if we reinvent things? Possibly not. But although we don’t want to reinvent the wheel (as we often put it) there has been a steady evolution in wheels over the years and using old ideas in different ways is the core of innovation as we use the term these days. In any case the current enthusiasm for recycling should champion reusing old ideas (he says, tongue only slightly in cheek).

As it’s the centenary of the First World War this year there are a lot of history programmes on TV and as most are accurate (although they often leave out significant facts to help their story along), they may have helped current generations to understand just how much things have changed and how fast the pace of change has been. By 1914 the industrial revolution had been going for over 100 years and had changed, among other things globally, the social fabric of the UK to the point that – had war not come – we might have seen a revolution here as the labour movement gathered strength and pace, as did that for women’s suffrage.

WW1 only put off those social changes, but the pace of technological change between 1914 and 1918 accelerated, especially in the fields of medicine and aviation. The Great Depression was another source of major change around the world and then came another world war just to illustrate that we learn little from history. But again it drove rapid change; we took less than 100 years to move from the machine gun to a working nuclear explosive device (it only took just under 66 years to go from the first powered flight to landing men on the moon and bringing them back).

I love history as much as I love change. It always depresses me a little when I hear people say how useless much of the schooling was and ask what’s the point of learning about this or that subject. To me they were all linked. History, geography, science, biology, language, literature, art and maths all had a common thread; they taught you about how things had got to be the way that they were. I am naturally curious, though, and have a thirst to know about things and that is one of the reasons why I like to teach. I can learn much from the process of passing on knowledge through the questions that people ask.

You don’t have to like all of the change around you, but you need to accept that it is inevitable that there will be change. Equally, you can’t always be the driver of change, but you can have your say. Your buying habits for a start, because these influence the products on offer, and you get a vote in all sorts of things from deciding who wins some TV contest to who runs the country (how many who avidly vote in the former bother to vote in the latter?). And the choice in how you live your life is yours alone, at least in your attitude to how you live it.

As I look out of my window the effects of change are obvious; my chilli peppers are ripening, the glory of the hanging baskets is almost over and the hawthorn’s fruit is reddening as autumn approaches. The seasons bring change, but the cycle will soon see spring back with a swathe of daffodils waving in the breeze and bringing the promise of warmer weather. I can’t stop the seasons, but I can embrace what they bring as long as I chose to do so. And that is the point really, for change brings opportunities so do something with it, even if it is just to recycle an old idea.

John Bowen is an FM consultant