Working Notes of a Practising Neo-Generalist (#23) — Real change can only be ‘human’

Image for post
Image for post
“It looks pretty big, but exciting as all hell.” (Jackson Pollock) — A two-year collaboration among conservators and conservation scientists helped conserve Jackson Pollock’s seminal work Mural (1943), which speaks to a critical early moment in his career. (Photograph courtesy of The Getty)

“If anyone can refute me — show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective — I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.” — Marcus Aurelius in Meditations, Book 6:21 (Gregory Hays, The Modern Library, New York)

Real change can only be ‘human’

“These days, more and more professionals get hired to ‘change’ things,” Céline Schillinger writes in Culture and the Real Impact of Change Agents.

Like me, she sometimes shakes her head in disbelief at spotting some known individuals, whom she has never seen taking any risk nor changing anything, holding a change, transformation or innovation job. Of course, we all learn, so this might simply be the result of newly gained insights and experiences. But, and I think this is nearer the truth, ‘change,’ ‘transformation’ and ‘innovation’ have merely become labels to make a job look more in tune with the latest fad or, to put it more positively, to make it look aspirational.

In her post, Schillinger gives a number of reasons for why change doesn’t work. One of those is especially dear to me: ‘the root of the system.’

Schillinger quotes one of her friends and former colleagues who says, “Unless we address the root of the system, unless we really influence shareholders and how organizations make their decisions — but decisions are taken along short-term financial objectives because of the capitalist system we live in — unless we change that, neither courage nor corporate activism will make any difference.”

This may sound rather fatalistic but do we really believe that we can change how this larger political, social and economic system functions through our endeavours within organisations only? Change within organisations is either not lasting, as the organisation simply rebounds to its former shape, or it is change for the sake of keeping things exactly as they are.

Lasting and sustainable change doesn’t result from working on things or on systems. Truly lasting change is within people themselves; something they can take with them on their personal journey through life and through which they might also inspire others. This kind of change springs from dialogue and conversation, and isn’t limited to organisational boundaries. It crosses and bridges them; might even blur them. To me, this is much more profound than working within the framework or context of ‘the’ organisation. Real change can only be ‘human.’

If you want to know more about my work and how I help leaders and their teams find their way through complexity, ambiguity, paradox & doubt with confidence and clarity of thought, go to Leadership Confidant — A new and more focused way of thriving on my ‘multitudes’ or visit my new ‘uncluttered’ website.

Image for post
Image for post
Of august gold-wreathed and beautiful / Aphrodite I shall sing to whose domain / belong the battlements of all sea-loved / Cyprus where, blown by the moist breath / of Zephyros, she was carried over the / waves of the resounding sea on soft foam. / The gold-filleted Horae happily welcomed / her and clothed her with heavenly raiment. (Lines from “To Aphrodite,” an early Greek Homeric Hymn or Homērikoi Hymnoi, c. 7th century BC) — Birth of Venus (c. 1482–1485), by Sandro Botticelli (tempera op canvas, 172.5 × 278.5 cm; photograph courtesy of Uffizi Gallery, Florence)

Written by

helping leaders navigate complexity with confidence & clarity of thought | varius multiplex multiformis

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store