Change Mindset - a case for embracing your whole self

By Anna Koj

Who am I?     

Have you ever asked yourself this question? Most of us don’t, at least not beyond our teenage years, and definitely not on a regular basis. As things change around us, we change with them. It seems only natural: we develop new friendships, change jobs, start families, travel, discover new passions. We live in an ecosystem, in which we play many different roles. Sometimes they complement each other, sometimes they clash, and at times they evolve with us.

Yet, unless shaken by usually very sad and unexpected events, rarely do we stop to truly reflect on how we’ve changed and who we have become.

These days, external changes happen at such a speed that it often feels like constantly driving with the turbo on. But the truth is that the only way we can fully embrace change is by developing a healthy change mindset. And, to do that, we need to be able to see ourselves for who we are in our whole selves.


It’s not an easy task and it takes time and a lot of inward-focused work. A good way to start off is to write down your own personal vision. Three concrete steps can help you set the ground to do that. Firstly, identify your self-biases (we all have them), analyse the different roles you play in life, explore and test new ideas, push yourself out of your comfort zone. Secondly, try to expand your emotional vocabulary, be mindful about how different experiences, situations      and people make you feel. Thirdly, rediscover the value of curiosity to become a transformational thinker. Keep an open mind, exercise your creativity and focus on where you want to get before building the steps to get there.     

Your personal vision will be your guide to consciously manoeuvre through various personal and professional changes, while staying in the driver’s seat.     

The article has been originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and published in the September 2019 edition of the magazine, accessible online, here.

Change Mindset - a case for Open Innovation 2.0

By Anna Koj

We’re living in the era of exponential change. New ideas pop-up at a much higher frequency rate than ever before and one of the common challenges for all organisations today is the competition for customer’s attention and buy-in. 

So, why should customers choose you? While changes these days occur more quickly and may take us in unexpected directions, it’s also increasingly more difficult to actually come up with an idea that would leave competition far behind for long. High quality is essential but it’s more a starting point than a unique distinctive success factor. What is key, is the overall user experience you build around your offering. And building successful user experience requires a well-developed change mindset. It is essential to keep an open mind, seek feedback and remain flexible to adapt accordingly, and most importantly, perceive individuals in their whole selves, and as part of a broader eco-system they function in.

Easier said than done?

Yes, and no. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, which makes it more specific and may require more work. The good news is that the secret ingredient is available to all. Stop thinking in terms of “us vs them”, start thinking in terms of just “us all”.

It’s about how WE influence collectively the society and environment around us, what contribution WE have in making our lives better, what role WE have in building solutions that will help us stay better informed or work more efficiently. It’s about thinking bigger than a single event or a new product. 

What is the role of open innovation in all of this? To succeed in this new reality, we need to employ new paradigms, such as the Quadruple Helix Model, which puts knowledge exchange, collaboration and co-creation at its core. By bringing together public sector, academia, industry and civil sector participants, we build on our collective intelligence as a society. We bring to the discussion all aspects of our lives that make us who we are and impact us as individuals, and we facilitate the development of innovative solutions that go beyond anything that any individual or organisation could achieve on their own. 

The article has been originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and published in the July 2019 edition of the magazine, accessible online, here.

Change Mindset - a case for sustainable organisation development

By Anna Koj

In order to be successful, change should be sustainable. Nowadays, sustainable change is not only about implementing new processes or structures, it’s more than ever about developing new thinking patterns together with your team. It takes time and commitment, but most of all it takes high levels of emotional intelligence. As an organisation leader, consider how change can affect people. Humans are creatures of habit. That is why change often feels unsettling, drives fear of the unknown, anxiety over predicted loss of control or straight denial. 


Whether you are planning a major change or simply anticipating how new external factors may impact your organisation, one key word for you to remember is communication. 

Open two-way communication about any planned change or challenge ahead is essential because it shows people they are part of the conversation no matter the circumstances. It inspires creative thinking and builds engagement. This feeling of agency is the very basis of the change mindset you want to foster in your team. 

What else can you do to bring your team on board?

Identify the change makers and the potential saboteurs in your organisation, acknowledge that everyone deals with change in their own unique manner and tailor your support to individual members of the team accordingly. There are no “one size fits all” solutions here. 

Make change part of the day-to-day job. Empower your team members to explore new areas of development, challenge them to contribute to the work of other departments. It will break old routines and help individuals dissociate their self-worth from specific tasks they carry out at work, thus eliminating one of the key reasons of resistance to change. 

Then, help them develop a systemic approach to change by jointly setting clear milestones on these new projects. Allow space for creativity and initiative but expect accountability.

Finally, praise efforts and jointly celebrate even small success. On top of being a great encouragement, it also primes your team members’ subconsciousness to associate change and new experiences with positive feelings. 


The article has been originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and published in the May 2019 edition of the magazine, accessible online, here.

Change (Mindset) is the New Constant

By Anna Koj


Change is a very important concept. As complex to comprehend fully, as it is common in our lives since forever. Over the years, a lot has been written and said about change management processes and techniques, developed to help leaders drive and manage change in their organisations. 

The concept of change today, however, as per its own nature, has evolved. With the development of artificial intelligence and growing innovation in the area of automation, we are witnessing changes occurring at an ever increasing speed, and becoming more and more exponential. As Yuval Noah Harari notes, we struggle with imagining the scope of change in the future because we keep using the same thinking patterns we have been using for years. 

Traditionally, when thinking about change we anticipate a disruptive force challenging the status quo, a period of adaptation, and finally stabilisation in the new status quo. However, what is more probable is that constant change will become in the coming years the new normal. This means that both as individuals and as organisations we need to look for ways to become more agile, reactive and adaptable. We need to develop tools and mechanisms to thrive even if we don’t have all the data to predict what future will bring us. What we need to work on is, first and foremost, our own Change Mindset. 

The Change Mindset allows you to fully embrace the concept of constant change, without fearing the unknown. It empowers you to unleash your creativity to proactively drive and shape change, to write your own story. Ultimately, it plays to the strengths of your whole self, as it mobilises to capitalise on your full skillset rather than staying closed in the box of any specific professional role. This broader way of perceiving yourself is crucial in ensuring success, as supported by the results of the study by the World Economic Forum on the top 10 Skills needed to Thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While complex problem solving, unsurprisingly leads the list, skills such as creativity, critical thinking or emotional intelligence have all gained in importance. 

Throughout the year, in a series of targeted and crisp reflections, I will explore with you ways to develop, practice and empower your Change Mindset. 

The article has been originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and published in the February 2019 edition of the magazine, accessible online, here.

The Tough Job of "Walking the Talk"​ on Diversity When Going Global

By Anna Koj

When associations decide to expand their focus from national or regional to global, they have a long list of strategic decisions to make and organizational restructuring to carry out. When they think of recruitment, they usually focus on the logistics rather than the impact on the organizational culture.

Diversity is a buzz word and most association leaders will tell you they already cherish diversity in their teams. Only some, however, really walk the talk. Mainly because it is more difficult than it sounds. It becomes even harder, but also more important, when embarking on a change path towards a truly global organization. 


It is hard because contrary to the old saying that “opposite attracts”, we tend to surround ourselves with people that are similar to us, often falling prey to unconscious bias. We all have biases, and they are not easy to counter but working on your self-awareness is a good place to start.

It is hard because when coming from a European melting pot for example, such as Brussels, we tend to believe to be very inclusive and international, already. Europe is indeed very diverse, but the world is even more so. When considering going global, try launching projects with sister associations from other parts of the world to challenge your assumptions and broaden your horizons.

Finally, review your in-house recruitment process or engage with external advisers to make sure you identify what “diversity” means for your organization. Then, build your job descriptions accordingly to attract diverse talent; and set your assessment criteria to avoid bias when choosing the successful candidates.

It is important because when your organization is global, your audience is, too. And as a responsible organization leader you want to ensure that your team and your work represent your stakeholders as broadly as possible. It will not only increase the team’s creativity, it will help you properly understand the needs and the pain points of your clients, and craft adequate solutions. Ultimately, it may just be the key to your global success.


The article was originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and can be found online, along with the full December 2018 edition of the magazine, here.

May curiosity be with you

By Anna Koj

In times when most people are satisfied with half-relevant and simplified answers, as long as they come in swiftly, it is not always easy to be the one digging deeper. Temptation is high to google your way through. 

Genuine curiosity is as precious as it is rare these days.It can also be an extremely powerful tool in becoming a better and more authentic leader. 

Firstly, curious minds are never satisfied with simplistic answers

They always ask: “why?”, look for details, analyse and get to the bottom of things. This allows them to stand on strong foundations, see the broader picture and trust their own judgment. They start and lead new conversations instead of just dropping an occasional answer. 


Secondly, curiosity opens your mind to new concepts.

It makes you seek new experiences, develop diverse interests and grow beyond one specific role you see yourself in. This is the very basis of becoming a leader: you are confident in making unexpected and unconventional connections, bringing inspiring people on board because you know their value just as you know yours; and you don’t feel threatened. You focus on creating something bigger than yourself.

Thirdly, it teaches you to ask the right questions – a skill that is often underestimated

If properly used, it can not only showcase your knowledge and help you gather information, but also create lasting and meaningful relationships with people around you. As they say, they may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. And we all like to feel listened to and understood.


Finally, it helps embrace the unknown and thrive in unpredictable circumstances

Today more than ever things can change by 360 degrees in a heartbeat. To be a successful transformational thinker, it is no longer enough to be able to comprehend the complexity of the world. What is needed is to be bold and feel comfortable leading while knowing that you don’t know most of the variables. 

May curiosity be with you!  

The article has been first published as part of the HQ - The Association Magazine's #85. All digital editions of the magazine can be found on their website, here.