Naomi Osaka (Or, why we need change-makers)

When Naomi Osaka announced that she was not going to attend the post-match press conferences at this year’s French Open, she did me a favour.

She shone a light on a status quo that I hadn’t really paid attention to before.

That status quo was the requirement for professional tennis players to show up at Grand Slam press conferences. It’s part of the job, right?

Accepting that as normal, I’d never thought about the bigger picture. The potential cost to players. How this rule might negatively skew the experience for everyone. Instead, I just lazily thought it was the way things were.

Osaka’s actions caused me to see something that I’d never really seen, and had never really cared about.

And now, I care.

When you go against the status quo, you show the status quo.

If we want things to change, we need to be change-makers, and we need to create more change-makers. When it’s not working how it needs to be, we need people who go against the status quo because they believe things can be better and are willing to act to change the game. 

Just like fish in water, it’s hard to see the stuff we take for granted. Change-makers show us what we’re not seeing, so we can ask different questions and create different answers. Answers that better work for all of us.

Who are the change-makers in your organisation and in your community? They’re the ones you might see as the trouble-makers. They’re just ‘a little bit different’. They stand out because they don’t really want to accept the rules as a given. They go against the grain. And because of that, they’re gold for anyone who’s open to change.

Change-makers can show us the status quo and its limitations in ways we’ve never seen before. They can shine a light on the unexamined assumptions we’re holding. They can enlighten us about the bigger picture we’re not yet seeing. And they can help us see what’s possible now.

That’s often enough to start a new conversation that can change the game.

For example:

The politician who refused to wear a tie in parliament became a catalyst for abolishing an out-of-date rule.

The schoolgirl who spent her school days outside Swedish parliament to call for stronger action on climate change became a catalyst for a bigger conversation about our 

governments’ responsibilities towards future generations.

While they could possibly have been more nuanced, I suspect Naomi Osaka’s actions will become a catalyst to change the game for professional athletes.

It won’t be easy. In my experience, any worthwhile change requires sustained momentum, supported by a deep conviction, oodles of courage, and good people around you. Naomi Osaka won’t change the game by herself. But by making the call, she’s opened the door for change to happen.

Got you thinking?

If you’ve got a niggle with the status quo, don’t let it lie. Pay attention to it. Ask yourself what you’re prepared to live with, and what you’re not. For the stuff you’re not, try something new. Do a small experiment that won’t cost you anything. See what happens. Rinse and repeat.

And here’s something that can also help. I’ve just opened my Change Makers Kick Start course to aspiring change-makers and intrapreneurs who want to make an outsized difference. It’s an online lab for aspiring change-makers to support and stretch each other to navigate the territory of making change happen. Over five weeks, you’ll grow your change-maker skill-set, mindset and networks so you can make your mark with more impact and less drama

The next course starts on 22 June. It’s open for registrations now. Numbers are limited. You can check it out here. I’d love to see you there.

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