Change makes companies and individuals grow

Jonas Fasth is a researcher and lecturer at the Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law, where he focuses on strategy and change processes in growth companies. Right now he’s involved in an exciting development project with Proton Group.

“The core question I’m trying to answer is: What defines a growth company?” he explains.


And what is the answer?

“Growth companies are good at handling change and thinking outside the box. These are insights that greatly benefit both employees in the company and private individuals. Change makes companies and individuals grow.”


What is change?

“Change is learning. Imagine a company, or person, for that matter, being able to make maximum use of all the available resources – both those within the company and those in the world around them. The possibilities would be endless. It is theoretically possible, but in real life no one manages it, because there is something in the way. I call it the ‘understanding gap’. The understanding gap is the difference between where we are now and what we have the potential to achieve. It affects the way we think and our mental map, which is what we base our actions on as individuals and as groups. When we realise that we can do things differently, that we can change things, we reduce the gap and get a bit closer to that optimal situation.”


But isn’t that very difficult?

“Learning new things is difficult and takes a lot of energy. That’s why we people like to automate things and create routines, because they make things easier. As soon as we step outside the framework, we need to start thinking, and that tires us out. But it’s important to remember that not all changes need to be big. Many small changes can make a big difference.”


What does it take to succeed with change?

“If you run a business, it’s important that you have the right people. It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are if you don’t have staff who can carry them out. But with the right people you can succeed, even if the idea is only semi-good. As a business, you need to recruit, and keep, employees who have that energy. Then, of course, not everyone has the same energy levels, and they don’t have them all the time. Some people are going through a difficult period in their personal lives, or have other reasons to resist change. If 100 employees participate in a change process, you can bet that there are 100 different perceptions of what’s going on. All people act based on their understanding and do their very best. It’s very unusual that someone resists out of sheer spite. To create change and energy, we also need a clear framework that gives us the best conditions to work in. So we need to paint a clear picture of what goal we want to achieve and create a game plan that shows how we work and according to what values. Then all employees need to have the right conditions to act based on what they can and want to achieve. This is not about comparing performances, who does more and who does less, it’s about everyone contributing in their own way. And finally, the company must have the energy, the skill, the time and the money it takes to implement the changes.”


What is your best tip for people who want to create change and perhaps change themselves as well?

“Deliberate! Take the time to think about what actually happened. How does everything fit together? When you deliberate on any event, you learn new things and remodel your mental map. In a learning organisation, you create time and space for people to think – however, time is often at a premium in organisations.”


How do you yourself change?

“I have the advantage of having a job that is largely about deliberation, where we get a lot of time to think about things. I read research articles and sketch out different setups for my own research processes. It can be difficult sometimes, when you start doubting your earlier thoughts and need to rethink things again. I also teach every day. Young people are incredibly inquisitive, and they ask really difficult questions all the time. And that also develops me – it’s a wonderful thing!”

”Take the time to think about what actually happened. How does everything fit together?”

Jonas Fasth is a researcher and lecturer at the Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law at Gothenburg University, where he belongs to the Management & Organisation section. He earned his doctorate in 2018 with the thesis “Företagsledares arbete och tillväxt” (The work and growth of entrepreneurs). In his research, Fasth studies the dynamics of growth to develop knowledge about the activities and processes that created it. His focus is on the actions of the managers and employees of growth companies.

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