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Continuously wondering about Change?

by | Dec 3, 2021 | Continuous Change, Journey, wonder

If you study people, you quickly recognize that putting them together into groups and teams is… complex 😉 And if you wonder why I love studying musical groups, you can see how simply adding one new person completely changes things. In the research around Teams, the highest performing have been together for more than 2 years… but less than 5. Balancing Change and Continuous is something that is worth wondering about…

… anyone who knows Journey knows where this story goes next: Steve Perry. An only child, his name is actually Pereira – Americanized by his Portuguese father who was also a vocalist and owner of a radio station in Hanford, California. He moved with his mother to his grandparent’s dairy farm in the central part of the state, and might have ended there – but he heard Sam Cooke’s song “Cupid” on the car radio when he was turning 12. His mother encouraged him by giving him a 1/8th note pendant for that birthday, and he still wears it to this day.

Like the other teenagers we have talked about, he bounced around through various gigs, including being in the studio at The Record Plant next to Stevie Wonder as he recorded Talking Book. Moving to southern California, he eventually landed in a band called Alien Project that was moderately successful… and whose bass player was killed in an automobile accident. In his mid-20’s by now, he moved home and gave up his dream… until his mother urged him to return a phone call from a producer for a struggling San Francisco-based band…

.. who had a lead singer that was not working out. Steve snuck into a soundcheck while that singer was out of the building. He was hired by the manager and announced to the band as the replacement on the spot. He also brought in a new producer, Roy Thomas Baker, who had worked with another popular vocal group – Queen 😉 Yes – that is why their vocals sound so tight and multi-layered. The initial reaction from fans was mixed, but over time, both the fans and the other members of the band really bought into the new sound and talent that Perry brought to the band. Ironically their first hit single was actually written by the singer he replaced, but this version is the one that everyone knows…

… and I wonder about how he handled being replaced and with that one Change, the band goes to … well, Infinity – the optimistic (and realistic) name of their first album with this lineup. This song went to #45, and we will now have Continuous hits to write about, that I am worried I will run out of stories to match 😉 And as monstrous as Journey is in rock history, the period that we will focus most on is only 6 years and 6 albums. What was it about that time together, and the experiences that they had all had in other situations that produced such enormous success?

Having been in and led many teams, some of which were high-performing ;-), there are a few things I can point out. First – Continuous also has a synonym that is important – Continuity. Members get to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses… and can adapt to play well with each other. Second, you need new talents to take the team into new areas, and keep the learning and working together fresh. And, those new members are typically challenging, and challenged by inertia – “we have always…” As a member or leader of the team, fostering the ability to think about things “differently” – to wonder – is critical to sustaining growth… and success.

Similarly, those characteristics can also spell stagnation if wonder is not encouraged. I have been in multiple organizations that have such a strong pattern of behavior that the same things are happening many years AFTER those people have left. Called Family Systems Theory in the therapy world, many, many organizations Continuously avoid Change by simply reproducing the same terrible results even with different people. One for example has had a series of senior technical and legal leaders that are known bullies – through 3 generations of different people. I used to wonder about that until I realized that those situations are mostly impossible to Change without real pain…

As we continue to wonder about Change, what is it that you are Continuously doing to stay fresh and creative? The encouragement yesterday to Do Less also works here for wonder – without extra capacity, it is so easy to simply just do the same things the same way. Step back – wonder – look at your day or week – or your team – and start to find some space to even imagine something different. A good friend just posted an idea of taking one minute between meetings to simply breathe. I can tell you that one small change will work wonders – even if it sounds too easy 😉 And that is the wonder – simple, easy, small – actually works. You don’t need to have a huge thing, nothing like a Wheel in the Sky.

Winter is here again, oh lord
Haven’t been home in a year or more
I hope she holds on a little longer
Sent a letter on a long summer day
Made of silver, not of clay
I’ve been runnin’ down this dusty road
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’
I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow
Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’
I’ve been trying to make it home
Got to make it before too long
I can’t take this very much longer
I’m stranded in the sleet and rain
Don’t think I’m ever gonna make it home again
The mornin’ sun is risin’
It’s kissin the day
Oh the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’
I don’t’ know where I’ll be tomorrow
Ooo the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’

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