Wick Communications

Change vs. irrelevance

In Innovation on October 8, 2010 at 7:56 am

On a recent trip to Colorado State University, I checked in on a friend in the university administration building. She gave me a little tour, including a peek in the president’s office.

In addition to being president of my old alma mater, Tony Frank is an unrepentant Chicago Cubs fan, so I had to resist the urge to steal his baseball bat signed by Ernie Banks. There is lots of university memorabilia in his office, too. Plenty to see.

Frank had a couple of quotes blown up and rendered on foam board. One read, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”

I didn’t catch where the quote came from at the time, but, if the Internet is to be believed, the words are those of retired U.S. Army General Eric Shinseki. Business guru Tom Peters used the quote in his book, “Re-Imagine: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age.” …

I don’t know why the president of Colorado State University found the quote worthy of 50-point type but I can imagine that he faces the challenge of change in a way that would not be unfamiliar to those of us in the news-gathering game. For example, the university recently decided to permanently shelve hundreds of thousands of books at its main library in favor of digital files. The school’s journalism program is wondering how to respond after the rival University of Colorado announced it was shuttering its journalism department. And on and on.

For university presidents and newspaper managers, change is the only constant. Hardly a unique thought on my part. It’s easy to do things the way we’ve always done them. Until, that is, the day comes that the phones stop ringing and we find ourselves a part of history.

At the CSU library, managers realized that 40 percent of their books had not been checked out in the 20 years the school had used an electronic tracking system. It was time for a change. We should be similarly alert to changing trends. Use technology to your advantage. Tell a story through video. Accept that readers provide some content we can’t improve upon. Seek cooperative ventures with unconventional partners.

Journalism will never be irrelevant. But we could be if we fail to recognize the opportunity posed by change.

Clay

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