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Three things I learned from will.i.am about being a Changemaker

  • Posted on March 21, 2022

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to sit down with artist, entrepreneur and activist will.i.am to talk about change. We are both leaders navigating a world where change is pervasive, persistent and ubiquitous, all be it in very different industries. I wondered: What does it mean to be a changemaker in this new world we’re living in? Here’s what I learnt:

1. Changemakers trust their gut when they feel it’s time for change, even in the face of resistance. Then they test their gut with people they trust.
By their very definition, changemakers often have big ideas about how to make their work, communities, and the planet better than they found it. These ideas almost assuredly are met with skepticism and doubt.

Changemakers aren’t afraid to go with their gut and pursue bold ideas, even when others aren’t on board. Before moving ahead with a bold idea, however, it’s critical to test it with a close cohort of confidants who challenge thinking and explain their rationale so that the best idea can rise to the surface.

Sometimes the boldest ideas—the ones you know deep down are the best for your community or organization—are still met with doubt. Changemakers use that doubt as a form of currency and motivation on the path of bringing their idea to fruition.

2. Changemakers, like conductors, empower their teams to improvise to encourage innovation 
It’s important for people on your teams to feel supported and empowered so they can take their creativity, vision and passion—and improvise on existing ideas. This leads to innovation, new products, new services, and overall new possibilities. A good leader and changemaker fosters a culture where this can happen.

will.i.am likened changemakers to being the conductor of an orchestra—each is able to bring people with diverse skills together to bring about change. A conductor brings all musicians together to make beautiful music on script. But at any given time, the conductor must be able to go off script and encourage the musicians to improvise so that everyone can bring their full potential to the group. Creating an environment where improvisation is encouraged is what empowers people to show their full authentic selves—and that’s where the sparks of innovation come through.

3. Being first or early to market doesn’t guarantee success; agility is key
An organization that can innovate, test an idea and move on is led by someone who is not afraid to fail. Changemakers realize that not every idea is going to work. They use these experiences as opportunities to reflect on what could have been done differently so they can improve on the next iteration—and they bring their teams along for the lesson.

If the pandemic has taught us anything about innovation, it’s that we’ll need to embrace continual change. To do that, changemakers must always be willing to reassess what it means to be agile and resilient.

Change is constant, so must be our ability to respond
We are firm believers that the most disruptive organizations are the ones who are led by people who are not afraid to disrupt themselves. Current headlines demonstrate that every day brings an opportunity to leave our world better than we found it. These moments of opportunity start with bold leaders called changemakers. And we all have the power within us to be one.

My conversation with will.i.am was the first in a series of ‘Changemakers’ conversations designed to challenge and inspire us all.

Please have a look at the highlight video.


Tabish Mazhar

Gone are the days of holding onto the status quo, change is the new status quo. A progressive vision, agility and preparation are the tools to succeed in change. Great conversation, thoroughly enjoyed it!

April 5, 2022

Maurice McFadden

This is wonderful content.  Please keep sharing, Avanade.

March 24, 2022

Sue Holly-Rodway

Love the idea of turning doubt into a valuable "currency" for change, rather than just dismissing it as without value. Some really relevant and resonating thoughts being shared, and how creative to connect with a creative from another industry. Love that bold idea!

March 23, 2022

Luciano Ribeiro

Amazing. Thanks for sharing and for more changemakers in the world.

March 23, 2022

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