Lessons in change from a 100 year old!

It was my Grandmas 100th birthday earlier this year and it may surprise you to know that she owns a tablet (1 electronic, several of the medicinal type). We have a family WhatsApp group where we connect and share the goings on in each of our lives and she replies to our messages regularly. Her WhatsApp’s have a slight formality to them, they’re always addressed to the person she’s speaking to and are signed “love G’ma” at the end which always makes me smile. Since the start of the pandemic, like many families, we started a weekly zoom and one of us would remote access her tablet and bring her into the video call. We’ve since moved to WhatsApp video so she can independently join us. Occasionally we get an accidental smiley teacup gif on WhatsApp and from time to time she somehow forwards us our own pictures or messages, but all things considered she technically advanced for her generation.

In 2019 I asked her what it was like to have lived through such big advances in technology. To put it into context, she’s lived through two World Wars, 25 Prime Ministers, the arrival of electricity, central heating, radio, television, the world wide web, mobile phones, and electric cars. She keenly remembers carrying the family transistor radio to the local shop to get it “fuelled up” and having to take the light bulb out at home to plug the iron in! She describes the technological changes as out of this world and that some of the things available now were considered impossible not so very long ago.

Looking back, I think our conversation provided some valuable learning for an event we couldn’t even have imagined would unfold just one year later? In 2020 as the world responded to the Covid pandemic the way we work accelerated its move to online and remote working. The way we work, communicate, collaborate, and connect will be forever changed following such a significant moment in history.

So, what was it? What did I learn from my Grandma’s experience of technological advances that aided my approach to the sudden changes I needed to make? The three things that stand out are Acceptance, Absence of Fear and Curiosity. I can’t say I nailed all of them as impeccably and with the same grace as my Grandma has done over her 100 years but they definitely resonate.

First and foremost is Acceptance:

There’s a reality and acceptance in the way my Grandma talks about changes in technology. Grandad won a washing machine through his job as a sales rep, so she used it. It didn’t sit in the corner until she had more time to master it or question whether it would do as good a job, she tried it and if it worked for her, she kept using it. Simple as that. In 2020 none of us had much choice but to accept that work was moving online so accept it we did.

Secondly the Absence of Fear:

Grandma seems to have been unphased by changes in technology, marveled at them maybe but she was never scared of the new things that came along. I think at times in 2020 I maybe could have done with a little more caution instead of leaping fearlessly into using new collaboration tools only to learn the hard way that I hadn’t anticipated every eventuality or accommodated and navigated someone else’s understandable caution and comfort to learn as we go.

Lastly Curiosity:

I’d probably describe Grandma’s curiosity as mild or moderate, she definitely wasn’t standing at the front of the queue when the latest new product came out or demanding the arrival of the next technological advancement, but she was curious about the new. I suppose this is the active part of acceptance, there’s something you must do to accept new technology. You do have to open the box, download the app or software, maybe watch a useful YouTube video, but either way, get curious and give it a go. Like Grandma I wasn’t the first person to adopt a new tool or research the best latest software available for a task, but when others were singing the praises of a piece of technology, I got curious and gave them a go.

I don’t hail myself to be the pinnacle of tech savviness by a very long way (you can probably tell), with the sheer volume of available technology I can struggle to get off the starting block of acceptance due to overwhelm at times and I don’t have the pressing need or burning platform of a global pandemic. As I find myself on the cusp of big personal change, I’m reflecting on how these three mindsets, acceptance, absence of fear and curiosity can apply to the changes I’m leaning into now, and all changes, not just those that are technological. Acceptance is much easier when we’ve chosen the change ourselves but what about when we haven’t? Can we accept the change, not fight it, try to control it, speed it up or slow it down? I’m lucky in that I’ve chosen my next big change, but big changes can be nerve-wracking all the same. Fear can debilitate us; we might not be able to get excited about an imposed change, but we might be able to achieve absence of fear and lean in with curiosity. While fear can debilitate us, curiosity has movement, it can expand our thinking, give us options, and lead us into the new, and perhaps even enable us to find ourselves somewhere we would have once thought was impossible.

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