Change is Hard

February 5, 2013 Leave a comment

“Change is hard because people don’t only think on the surface level. Deep down people have mental maps of reality — embedded sets of assumptions, narratives and terms that organize thinking… People almost never change their underlying narratives or unconscious frameworks…”

This is David Brooks, focusing on the woes of a Republican Party that is struggling to reinvent itself.  But the fact applies to all sorts of change.

Ours is a paradoxical situation.  Change is happening all the time.  Evolution is real.  In some of Octavia Butler’s novels, God is Change.  And Maturana reminds us that since everything is changing, the question of evolution really is about what we want to conserve.

And yet – we will resist it.  We do resist it.  The folks at McKenzie say that 70% of organizational change efforts fail.  This is precisely because our stories are deeply embedded and they define how we interpret the world.

Brooks goes on to recommend that reformers stop trying to change the party that is and devote their energy to developing a whole new wing of it.  This is a bit like the Walk Out Walk On model.  Create the alternative, and let people come to it once they can see what it looks like.

We fit the world into our stories of it.  There are stories that have us and there are stories that we have.  The stories that have us contain our unquestioned assumptions, they are almost impossible to change.  It is only possible to change our stories when we get to know what the story is, when we look at it so closely that we can get to a place where we have the story instead of it having us.

This changing of the story is the hardest work that we can do, as individuals and as groups of people trying to do something together.  And this is the work that must be done.


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