The importance of achieving successful separation

A child steps up into the school bus

In 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.

These come in three stages. The first is Separation.

Kodak didn’t fail because it couldn’t make digital cameras — the company invented the digital camera in 1975. The reason Kodak failed was because it was emotionally tied to its old identity as a chemical photographer and so couldn’t take advantage of its own invention. It couldn’t Separate. This left a huge opportunity for others to fill.

The original owners of Starbucks saw themselves as local of coffee beans and equipment to the local market. They couldn’t buy-in emotionally to Howard Shultz’s vision of Starbucks as a global coffee retailer. To make that vision happen, Shultz literally had to buy the company from them. Then, once the company had separated from it’s old identity the successful new identity could begin.

Separation is about letting go of the way the world used to be. Only then can we turn to embrace the new possibilities.

When did you last experience a major change in your role or identity? Did you have to 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: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By julie corsi via

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