EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE

Features - February 6th, 2009
Changes

by Ian de Stains OBE

Isn’t the new-look Weekender wonderful? It isn’t just the look of course; it’s the way the new proprietors have built on all that went before to create something refreshingly different while retaining something that’s familiar. That’s 0ne of the secrets of managing change successfully.

It’s a secret to which we must all hope Barrack Obama has the password. All those campaign pledges that change can come about — that change will come about — all the offered hope and all the proffered dreams and all t he many promises will now be tested. That some of them will fail is a given but that will prove one thing and one alone: that President Obama is human. He is not Superman (for which, many thanks: the world has seen enough of comic book characters in the White House). Nevertheless, there will be those who will gloat at failure, ignoring the dignity of his essay, But he— and we—should not be downhearted.

If a man is afraid to fail in his endeavors, he is unlikely to enjoy success. We have seen this so often in business. Ask any really successlul entrepreneur and they will tell you (if they are honest) that they have learned more from their failures than from their successes. Mr. Obama is so far untested in this regard and he should be given the chance to be so. America and the world should welcome this. The sad likelihood is, however, that the new President will-sooner rather than later—be taken to task for not accomplishing everything he set out to do. In part this is due to the extremely high (and, frankly, unrealistic) expectations people have of him; in part to human nature itself: we seek scape-goats, need whipping boys. The media, as always, will find or create stories that are designed more to attract sensation than to record accomplishment. In the political jungle, negative stories sell more newspapers than accounts of positive goals achieved. Sadly, such is the world in which we live.

Change is certainly what is needed. However, people are afraid of change and fear is a powerful emotion. But wouldn’t it be wonderful, if—just for once—the media backed off and gave the new President time to make his mark (including his mistakes); to let the people see what the President they have elected is capable of? Wouldn’t that be a change for the better; for America and for the rest of the world? Wouldn’t that be a liberation from fear?

Like countless numbers of people all over the world I watched the inaugural ceremonies with a sense of renewed hope (if not exactly expectation) and a sincere wish for the incoming President’s success and well-being. I suppose if I believed in god I would have added my voice to the many asking her to bless America. That would have been a cynicism too far but I might slill have a quiet word at my local shrine. Who knows?

Ian de Stains, OBE is the Executive Director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and Convenor of its Japan Chapter.