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Tony D'Amelio

By: Tony D'Amelio on February 7th, 2017

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50 Reasons Why We Can't Change: Why Adapting to Change is So Hard

Innovation | Managing/Leading Change | Leadership


BILL TAYLOR has encouraged a generation of executives and company-builders to muster the courage and skills to think differently about change, leadership, and the new world of work. A spirited and hard-charging entrepreneur, Bill co-founded Fast Company, easily the most influential voice on business and innovation in the last two decades. The publication changed the very idea of what a business magazine could be. After the publication was sold for $340 million, Bill became on of the top speakers on managing disruptive change – helping organizations and leaders understand how to adapt to, and take advantage of, the relentless pace of radical change and disruption.

Bill and I worked together for many years during my tenure at the Washington Speakers Bureau. I’m pleased that he just joined D’Amelio Network; we’ll be managing his speaking activities.  



Bill Taylor's Preview Video


One of Bill’s favorite topics is our resistance to change and the risks we take by getting too comfortable with the status quo. He made a great point about the difficulty organizations have adapting to change at a speech I saw from last year. I wanted to share it here. 



“One of the first articles in our first issue of Fast Company was a really funny piece by a guy named E.F. Borish who was the son of the founder of the Milwaukee Gear Company, a really successful manufacturing company based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company was doing fine, really well, in fact, and E.F was Product Manager.

“Once he took the company over from his father he had all kinds of really intriguing ideas about new ways to connect with customers, new markets to enter, new ways to organize work at the company. And every time he would try to introduce one of these ideas, he’d get resistance, push back, and objections from his colleagues. It really started to drive him crazy.

“So he decided to sit down and write an article that we published called, “50 Reasons Why We Can’t Change.”   There was no introduction to the article. No conclusion to the article. It was just literally a numbered list from one to 50 of all the objections to change he had heard from his colleagues.

“What was funny about it was all the specific objections kind of contradicted one another:

“Number one was, “We’ve never done anything like this before. Do we have the guts to do it?” Number four was, “Didn’t we try this three years ago? I don’t think it worked. Why would we try it again?”

“Number thirteen was, “None of our competitors have done anything like this. Do we really want to be the first out of the gate?” Number five was, “a major competitor did something kind of like this and it didn’t work...”

“Number seven was “That’ll never work here, we’re too small, we don’t have the resources.” Number eight was, “That’ll never work here. We’re too large; we’re kind of cumbersome and bureaucratic.” On and on it went, one more contradictory than the next. 


“Now, here’s the punch line. We published that article with great fanfare in early 1996. That article was actually a reprint an article that E.F. Borish first published in, believe it or not, 1959 in an obscure journal call Product Engineering News. Our point to our readers then and my point to audiences I speak to now is that the more things change, the more the objections to change remain the same.  Leading change is not for the faint of heart.

“That’s why your first job as a leader or change agent, wherever you are in the organization, is to convince your colleagues, and maybe deep down to convince yourself, that in a world that’s being assaulted by radical change, playing it safe may be the riskiest course of all. Change begins to happen when people finally conclude that the risk of trying something new is less than the cost of clinging to what’s worked in the past. That is a big shift in mindset, but it’s the mindset that lets you go about the business of inventing the future.” 




 This is E.F. Borish’s original list from 1959. Bill suggests that people evaluate their resistance to change and if it is on the list, it is probably not a valid reason for them to not embrace that change.

 1 - We've never done it before.

2 - Nobody else has ever done it.

3 - It has never been tried before.

4 - We tried it before.

5 - Another company/person tried it before.

6 - We've been doing it this way for 25 years.

7 - It won't work in a small company.

8 - It won't work in a large company.

9 - It won't work in our company.

10 - Why change — it's working OK.

11- The boss will never buy it.

12 - It needs further investigation.

13 - Our competitors are not doing it.

14 - It's too much trouble to change.

15 - Our company is different.

16 - The ad department says it can't be done.

17 - Sales department says it can't be done.

18 - The service department won't like it.

19 - The janitor says it can't be done.

20 - It can't be done.

21 - We don't have the money.

22 - We don't have the personnel.

23 - We don't have the equipment.

24 - The union will scream.

25 - It's too visionary.

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES : Bill Taylor: The Risk of Playing It Safe Video 
and Bill Taylor’s Main Speaker Page 

26 - You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

27 - It's too radical a change.

28 - It's beyond my responsibility.

29 - It's not my job.

30 - We don't have the time.

31 - It will obsolete other procedures.

32 - Customers won't buy it.

33 - It's contrary to policy.

34 - It will increase overhead.

35 - The employees will never buy it.

36 - It's not our problem.

37 - I don't like it.

38 - You're right, but ...

39 - We're not ready for it.

40 - It needs more thought.

41 - Management won't accept it.

42 - We can't take the chance.

43 - We'd lose money on it.

44 - It takes too long to pay out.

45 - We're doing all right as it is.

46 - It needs committee study.

47 - Competition won't like it.

48 - It needs sleeping on.

49 - It won't work in this department.

50 - It's impossible. 


BILL TAYLOR has encouraged a generation of executives and company-builders to think differently about change, leadership, and the new world of work. A spirited and hard-charging entrepreneur, Bill co-founded Fast Company, easily the most influential voice on business and innovation in the last two decades. Fast Company chronicles the revolution in management and competition driven by technology, and profiles the mavericks and rule breakers who achieve outsize success by taking a different path. In less than six years, a magazine that took shape in borrowed office space in Harvard Square sold for $340 million.

In addition to writing, Bill’s passion is speaking - bringing audiences groundbreaking new ideas and techniques to compete, innovate, and succeed. He’s also authored three bestselling books on leadership, organizational cultureinnovation and change His latest, Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways, was named “Best Strategy & Leadership Book of 2016” by 800CEORead. His previous books include Practically Radical and Mavericks at Work. Bill created the “Under New Management” column for The New York Times and has published numerous essays and CEO interviews in the Harvard Business Review, where he now blogs regularly.  

Here is a sampling of Bill’s speech topics:

Transforming Your Organization and Challenging Yourself

Don’t Let What You Know Limit What You Can Imagine

Succeeding in a World Where the Smart Take from the Strong

How to Unleash and Sustain Fierce Execution and Nonstop Innovation

Bill Taylor Hard Work Big Change

About Tony D'Amelio

Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Geoff Colvin, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Nicole Malachowski, David Meerman Scott, Bill Taylor, Bill Walton, and Bob Woodward.

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