On Natural and Un-Natural Change

These days, many are wondering about change. In the natural world, there's global climate change. In the political world, there's Obama's progressive agenda dubbed "Change you can believe in."

The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said: "We shrink from change. Yet is there anything that can come into being without it?"

For me, change is life itself. We live with change (e.g. getting older, losing a loved one etc) and we make change in our lives (e.g. moving out of our parents' house and getting an apartment, changing jobs, etc). With wisdom, we come to understand the natural role of change, our feelings about change, and the need to initiate change at times.

Change management professionals would do well to have a baby. (Or, if a baby is too dramatic, get a puppy. Puppies would be a close second to a baby.)

Having a baby says it all about change. They change your life. And you need to adapt. You now have a little life that you are responsible for. It's scary. It's wonderful. It calls upon our strengths. It teaches us to learn, react, and improvise. And it beckons us into uncharted waters.

Yet, as the emperor once said, we shrink from change. There's something scary about change, something in change that we fear.

As a wise sage once said, "If you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs." Change by its nature entails breakage.

In business organizations, most large scale change projects fail. There is something un-natural about the changes that we sometimes force upon organizations, I think.

Some say it's an either/or proposition: Change or stagnate. Change or die.

I wonder if this Either/Or thinking is part of our problem?

I wonder if there is a process of "natural change" in business too. Just like the seasons change in nature.

Maybe our hyped focus on "driving change" is the problem. Maybe if we just did what we need to do, we would learn, adapt, and improvise...and things would change naturally.

The Irish social philosopher Charles Handy has said that the secret to business success is quite simple: "Do your best, with what you are best at, for the good of others."

Posted by Terrence Seamon on October 3, 2010. For more on change, adaptation, and learning in organizations, visit Terry's website and invite him to your organization.


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