Same as Usual, Only Different

Instead of embracing and celebrating change — or lying about it and pretending to embrace it — I think we ought to stop talking about change altogether. Let’s ignore it, avoid it, and sidestep it. Instead of spending time thinking about change, let’s all sign up for zooming lessons.
— Seth Godin (1999)
Doing the same thing as usual, only different.

Doing the same thing as usual, only different.

Seth Godin defines “zooming” as “doing the same thing as usual, only different”. Zooming, according to Godin, is about stretching your limits without threatening your foundation. It's about handling new ideas, new opportunities, and new challenges without triggering the change-avoidance reflex.

There are all kinds of zoomers, and all kinds of categories in which you can learn to zoom. A person who is able to zoom across a large area without getting stressed out is said to have a broad “zoomwidth”.

Take the franchised restaurants — McDonald’s, Baskin-Robbins, Pizza Hut — for example, none of them has any zoomwidth at all. The structure of these organizations, Godin explained, made any sort of adjustment seem like a major threat, rather than an opportunity to zoom. In fact, Kentucky Fried Chicken even had to change its name to KFC, just so it could start selling non-fried foods!

In contrast, Limited Inc. is a company that has great zoomwidth. At Limited stores, introducing a new clothing style is easy. It changes its merchandise at every store at least once a month — whether it needs to or not.

The big question: Why is it that the big opportunities, the really obvious chances that we get to improve our businesses and our careers, almost always pass us by? The answer: big opportunities bring change, and change is painful. Godin concluded that as long as opportunity means “change”, and as long as change means “pain”, we will continue to miss our chances, unless we learn to zoom. Or, if it’s the business world, the escape route from doom leads to growing, adapting and transforming the organization so it finally has ample room to zoom.