Drawn Agency

The Need to Adapt Without Losing Your Identity

A brand’s capacity to embrace change is central to its ability to perform over time. In Alan Deutschman’s book, Change or Die, he expounds on this principle, applying it to both organizations and individuals.

This and other major industry publications continue to remind us that the companies that welcome change are more fit to grow amidst marketplace adversity. These companies view change as an opportunity instead of a threat. Some even go further and instigate change that disrupts the status quo.

A willingness to change isn’t enough, though. It’s only half of the equation. Organizations must possess two seemingly opposed traits: an affinity for change and an unwillingness to change their identities.

I was thrilled to read that my undergraduate alma mater, Willamette University, continues to resist offering undergraduate classes online, even though many of their competitors have chosen to do so. Willamette was built on the foundation of liberal arts education that takes place through interpersonal interaction. The university’s resistance is a risky move, given the highly competitive landscape of higher education, but it seems to recognize that offering classes online would conflict with its identity.

This kind of dogged unwillingness to compromise preserves an organization’s identity and helps it focus on being strategic and proactive. Organizations like Willamette, who protect their brand identity, still must tend to the other half of this equation — the commitment to view change as an opportunity to remain relevant.

A capacity for change is the hallmark of a leading organization. However, a dedication to the organization’s core mission and identity needs to guide its capacity for adaptation. Needs flex and adapt to remain relevant within your industry, but preserve and nurture your organization’s unique identity to ensure its continuing strength as you move forward.

— Andrew Robinson