Achieving successful separation

A small child climbs up on to the school busIn a world filled with change, it is often not the physical changes we find difficult but rather the emotional and psychological impacts of letting go of the way the world used to be and shifting to a new reality.

Kodak failed because it couldn’t let go of its old identity as a chemical photographer. The company actually invented the digital camera in 1975 but was so emotionally tied to its identity as a chemical photographer that it couldn’t take advantage of its own innovation. This left a huge opportunity for others to fill.

The owners of Starbucks could not bear to end their identity as sellers of coffee beans and coffee-making equipment. So to create the global retail giant we know today, Howard Shultz had to buy the company from them and let go of that identity.

Successful adaptation, both personally and in business, requires us to manage our psychological and emotional transitions.

These come in three stages the first of which is called Separation.

Separation is about getting closure for a part of our lives that is over. It is about letting go of the way the world used to be and turning to embrace the new possibilities.

We do this by recognising the good things the past has brought us (skills, resources, and lessons learned) and creating an inspiring vision of how we will rebuild what matters most. Ritual also plays a part.

Before we can take on a new role or identity, we first have to let go of the old one. Only then can new results be delivered.

When did you last experience a major change in your identity? Did you have to accept and let go of your old identity before you could step fully into the new one? Would it have been useful to have known how to do that faster?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By julie corsi via

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