Status Quo: Comfortable, Yet Dangerous. Here’s How to Change It

10 Jun

Time and time again, I see organizations of all kinds, and in particular nonprofits, hoping to recapture results from another time by trying and retrying things that worked then. It’s an honest yet misguided trust in the idea that something known is more real – and better – than something unknown.

Yes, it is true that “back in the day” things were different. (Better, some say, and in some regards, that may be fair.)

Yet, we don’t live “back in the day,” we live now. And whether we love it or hate it, we humans have shifted our behaviors, attitudes, likes, and dislikes as the Now guides us.

To me, this is the definition of Status Quo:

Status Quo, n., Latin, for “We should probably change that.”

Status Quo is a secret traitor.

Status Quo wants you to ignore all signs and just “do what you’ve always done.”

While Status Quo whispers to us to “Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s always been this way,” what it really wants to tell us is different. It wants us to know,

“If you keep listening to me you will get the same results as every person, country, and organization who rested on their laurels — and didn’t listen to the people — did.” Which history tells us, is not what we want.

Status Quo, if it is being truthful, would secretly tell us to “Get out while you’re ahead! Try something new. Please!”

Why does this matter?

The future is made up of everything we do today. The faster we shift to flow and mesh with the people that matter to us and what they want, the more we participate in the future today.

If you look at the left side only, it’s an intriguing photo.  If you look at both sides together, one is much more striking and inspiring. Photo: Status Quo v. Now

Try this.

Ask yourself (and your team, or your board, or your group, or your friends or family) three questions, to follow.

Take the answers, and ask yourself how Status Quo feels about them. Also ask yourself what Status Quo would secretly tell you about them.

Also ask yourself what Sheryl Sandberg, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Lucy Peng, Jeff Bezos, Angela Merkel, Warren Buffett, Margaret Thatcher, Sergey Brin, Melinda Gates, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela, Marissa Mayer, Peter Thiel, Ghandi, Ariana Huffington, Xi Jinping, Mary Meeker, DaVinci, Meg Whitman, Jack Ma, Oprah Winfrey, Mary Barra, Stephen Hawking, and your personal favorite hero (from now or the past) from business, nonprofit, or family and friends would say.

The three questions:

  1. If we had a magic wand, what would we make happen immediately?

  2. If we had to determine our future by stopping one thing and starting one thing, what would those be?

  3. If we had unlimited time and money, what would be the main thing we would be doing?

All of these questions get to the heart of what matters; what’s important. None of them allow for Status Quo, because they are all in the future.  Because all are based on nothing we’re doing right now.

What we’re doing right now is getting us what we are getting right now. It cannot get us to the places in these questions, because they are in the future, where Status Quo is not likely to survive.

Questions are the root of all answers.

Ask these questions as a starting point to reflect on what’s possible – and what is very likely not possible with Status Quo, aka what’s happening today.

I’d love to hear from you about any ideas or insights! Please leave a comment or connect with me @CharityIdeas on Twitter or on LinkedIn.








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