A different, more philosophical way to think about change.
This post is inspired by one of my favourite podcasts, Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell. In an episode called “A Good Walk Spoiled,” Malcolm discusses the Ship of Theseus paradox as it relates to property tax in California – not anything related to what I’m writing about here. The Ship of Theseus paradox got me thinking about work, life, and change.
There’s a famous thought experiment written by Plutarch called the Ship of Theseus.
In the Ship of Theseus, Plutarch asks you to imagine Theseus is sailing on a ship, and one by one he replaces every one of the original planks that make up that ship with a new plank, until every single piece of the ship is new.
The big question is, when Theseus reaches shore, is he sailing the same ship that he left with or a new ship? At what point is the ship no longer the same ship?
There are two answers to this question. The Mereological Theory of Identity and the Spatiotemporal Continuity Theory.
The Mereological Theory of Identity says that when Theseus gets to shore, he is sailing a new ship. Meaning, the identity of something is the sum of its component parts. If you change the parts, you change the thing.
The Spatiotemporal Continuity Theory says that when Theseus gets to shore, he is sailing the same ship. Meaning, an object can maintain its identity as long as the change is gradual and the form or shape of the object is preserved during the changes of its component materials.
Now, let’s bring this back to the 21st century. How much do we change when we, well, change? When things in our life and our bodies are constantly changing, what keeps you, you? A company and even a team is constantly changing with new processes, new tools, new employees.
I’m going to draw a line in the sand here and pick The Spatiotemporal Continuity Theory as it relates to change at Climax Media. There is always something new. A new process, a new team member, a new technology you have to incorporate. We move furniture, build boardrooms, change seats. Through all the change that happens here on a daily basis, we maintain our identity and our values.
Company values are the navigator of the ship. There may be lots of change, or as Plutarch puts it, many planks replaced, but our navigator keeps us on path. When we get to our destination the ship may look a little different, but the values have stayed the same.