National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

There Is a Real Difference between “Change” and “Transformation”

Some may think that the two words in the title are interchangeable; I guarantee you they are not.

Earlier this month, I posted an IdeaXchange blog, “It’s never too soon to transform your business.” In my blog, I discussed a presentation by author and futurist, Daniel Burrus, which covered the need for businesses to become anticipatory organizations. Essentially, he noted that being able to react quickly to changes is no longer a way to measure a good leader. Instead good leaders understand the power of disruption and need to anticipate it before it occurs…the need to be proactive rather than reactive has never been more imperative.

One of the other things Burrus pointed out was the difference between change and transformation. As he explains, transformation comes from the inside out while change comes from the outside in.” I found that a compelling distinction and decided to look into it a bit more, especially since disruption seems to be impacting nearly every industry and individual organization.

If you want to think of the difference between the two, consider the definition of the two; “change” is described as the act of “substituting or replacing something;” or in other words, altering something that already exists. It is a word associated with the present or past but not the future. Change works with to make existing products, services, and practices cheaper, faster, and/or better.

Transformation, on the other hand, is a complete and total change that actually impacts the very nature of the situation. A puppy becomes a full-grown dog … that’s a change; a caterpillar becomes a butterfly … that’s a transformation. Transformation requires a future orientation; assessing the present and judging how one can move toward that desired future. It requires the need to modify beliefs that may be holding you back since “that’s the way it’s supposed to work because that’s the way it has always worked.”

In my blog, I also noted that Burrus spoke about the need to maintain and strengthen relationships when transforming a business. It is vital that this new transformation instills trust in those you do business with. As an example, the success of online travel sites such as Travelocity,, and, and the sharing sites like Airbnb have completely disrupted the hotel and travel industry. Simply changing their reservation policy offering a cheaper rate would not suffice; so the survivors recognized the future and adapted the digitization and customer-centricity of travel.

A 2016 article in The Guardian shows how one hotel group has recognized this need to transform. According to Stephan Croix, who was then “vice-president of marketing at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, ‘Digital technology has changed the way we connect with guests, creating a 24/7 relationship in and out of stay. It is also transforming every phase of hospitality – from finding a hotel to checking in to unlocking your door to personalizing your stay. As travel is inherently mobile, travelers expect to use their mobile devices to enrich their travel experience.’ Starwood adapted and invested in mobile, which led to overall mobile gross bookings rising more than 50% in 2015 compared with the year before.”

In another example, Tesla has caused car and truck manufacturers to consider electric vehicles, not as outliers but as a growing mode of transportation. Those companies that aren’t looking at electric vehicles as a product will find themselves on a negative trajectory as the infrastructure grows for charging stations.

The reality is nothing remains static and technology is creating disruptions throughout the global economy. Change will still be necessary to continue doing business, but transformation will be essential in order to grow and thrive in an increasingly competitive world.

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