Achieving successful separation

A child steps up into 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 didn’t fail because it couldn’t make digital cameras — Kodak actually invented the digital camera, in 1975. The company failed because it was so emotionally tied to its identity as a chemical photographer that it couldn’t take advantage of its own innovation. It couldn’t let go of its old identity. This left a huge opportunity for others to fill.

The owners of Starbucks saw themselves only as sellers of coffee beans and coffee-making equipment. Before he could change this to create the global chain of coffee shops we know today, Howard Shultz literally had to buy the company from them.

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 can do this by recognising the good things the past has brought us (skills, resources, and lessons learned) and by 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 role or identity? Did you find you had to accept and let go of your old identity before you could fully step 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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