Tag Archives: wheatley

Unpacking Change in 2015: We’ve surveyed the horizon, now we tackle the topics

In September 2014, we launched a comprehensive discussion of social and organizational change horizons. We tapped insights from Margaret Wheatley, framed here: Wheatley on Social Innovation: Do We Regroup? Our general takeaway was that social change inside organizations and out remains incredibly difficult. We agreed there are many in-depth discussions ahead to unpack it all. And we shared an overarching question: How might we best make progress?

Here are the discussion threads we surfaced to guide our chats in 2015.  As you have time, review these topics, and tweet out about those you find the most interesting, useful and relevant in the near term. We’ll pick up and extend the conversation in our monthly Twitter exchanges.

Our next #cdna chat is scheduled for Monday FEB 16 at 9 p.m. ET.

  • Q1. SOCIAL CHANGE vs. INNOVATION
    • a. Gap perception: grappling with ‘what needs to happen’ vs. ‘what’s been achieved’ (Tony)
    • b. Innovating within our sphere of influence. (Scott). We discussed this in some detail during our January 2015 chat, with this frame, and the transcript here; thanks to Scott Smith for teeing this up and for being our guest moderator. What more can we learn from this discussion?
    • c. Does the conversation take us toward Asimov’s ‘Psychohistory’? (Scott)
    • d. Change v. innovation: are both like ‘deviance’ .. in the end, subjective? relative? (Kim)
    • e. Not all social change is innovative (Kim)
    • f. Midgley’s boundary critique: who decides? who gets marginalized? (Alice)
  • Q2. MOTIVATION
    • a. Harmonizing motivation (Christy), perhaps via Maslow’s ‘pack’ response? (Jamie)
    • b. Gaming self and team to stay in flow (Christy)
    • c. Spreading methods (Christy)
    • d. Planning for change around adoption curves (Mike)
    • e. Does economic pain trump all other motivators? (Jamie)
  • Q3. CULTURAL FORCES AND TIME DIMENSION
    • a. Cultural resistance: our brains’ firmware seems programmed to hesitate (Scott)
    • b. Prescriptive behavior (Redge); market imperatives taken to be givens (Paul)
    • c. The function of speed vs. perceived value, and challenge of normalizing (Christy)
    • d. Wheatley: we are not in charge of time arc of change, or its scope, reach or uptake (Kim)
  • Q4. CHANGE DRIVERS
    • a. Visionary leadership (Tony), and a capacity to see a different world (Paul)
    • b. Case studies for social change: IBM/Gerstner, Apple/Jobs, GE/Welch (Chris, Redge)
    • c. Modeling change from a place of integrity (David)
    • d. Empowered individuals as means to disrupt cliques (David)

Click on the hyperlinked author to see the original tweet, or check out the cdna 9/15 transcript to see the conversation. Thanks as always for the investment of time, insights and positive energy. We always learn something.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


The Nature of Fear: Are We Paralyzed by Conformity?

AMG121606a-dilworth-leaves

Conformity in nature and human nature. Survival is at our core. Are we afraid to be different? Where has Darwin taken us?

Understanding the notion of conformity is important when we talk about culture, inside organizations and out. It’s become a key driver in our thinking. As we’ve discussed, our mindset is subtly but deeply influenced by our own vauge perceptions of things are supposed to be, consumed by a feeling that our survival may depend on our ability to fit in.

Can we actually be paralyzed by conformity?

To Margaret Wheatley, there’s no beating around the bush. She says we are. Consider these excerpts from A Simpler Way (1999):

“We have terrorized ourselves by the thought of evolution, driving ourselves into positions of paralyzing conformity, for fear of getting things wrong .. (where) extinction will follow swiftly on the heels of any mistake.”

“.. fear is the darkest of Darwinian shadows.”

Wheatley likes to cut to the chase.

Can we find examples to support her claim? I think they are plentiful, and they are all around us. Consider:

  • a consumer culture that thrives on conformist based purchasing (think: brands, trends, styles)
  • social circles that favor (or outright demand) fitting in
  • work environments that favor the status quo, resisting alternative viewpoints
  • education systems increasingly riveted to standards
  • organizations that cling to structure/hierarchy over more dynamic/collaborative modes of interaction
  • a Western busiess culture modeled upon repeatable, uniform, mechanistic models of efficiency

Much has been written (by me and others; see also a book by C.Christensen, and a great RSA animation by K.Robinson), on the downside of our mechanistic, structure-focused paradigms. It’s thinking that makes us slaves to someone else’s blueprint. Our culture and our thought processes seem literally consumed by the conformist view.

Can we break the cycle?

I say yes. If we can find ways to fundamentally change our mindset.

I’m intrigued that in the very same book, Wheatley goes on to describe patterns and rules in nature that seek to discover what works. Conformity, perhaps, is not all bad, like a tree seeking a greater share of critical sunlight, or vying to expand its rainfall catching potential. Have a need for more light and water? Grow a little taller. Sprout some more leaves.

AMG121607a-dilworth-leaves

A better, more useful frame might be: conform if it’s working, adapt if it’s not.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a balancing act. So often, we don’t see a choice. Conformity of purpose is important where precision, quality and scale are required. But when we limit our exploration of new ideas or way of doing things, we cut off our chance to learn, to innovate, and to grow.

Conformity can be a trap. And it can also be our saving grace when we frame it as a repeatable pattern, a platform for new possibilities.

Both. And.

The #cdna community hosts a periodic exploration of social learning, a deep dive into the factors that help us learn together. We seek to identify enablers that help us discover, and the barriers that tend to keep us from learning.  At our next discussion, let’s tee up these questions on conformity in the context of culture:

  • Q1. What reactions or thoughts does mention of comformity tend to trigger?
  • Q2. Can we advance metaphors for conformity that focus on upside (tree leaves) and caution of the downside (factory model)?
  • Q3. If you agree with Wheatley on the dark side of Darwin, why does conformist thinking carry a special risk?
  • Q4. Can we influence the cultural implications that conformity introduces? How?

I can help on that last one with a hint: if you’re a Peter Block fan, you’ll know the answer to “How?” is almost always “Yes!”  Our next #cdna chat is slated for Monday March 10th at 8pm ET.

Bring your ideas and an open mind. We hope to see you there.

Chris Jones (aka @sourcepov)


Learning to Learn: The Evolution of KM and OD; Can they work with Education to change the game?

DNA in the Evolution of KM and OD

DNA in the Evolution of KM and OD: Can we adapt to drive meaningful change?

As covered in my recent KM-OD post and discussed in my KM World 2012 W5 workshop, the modern organization needs every shred of productivity and innovation capacity it can muster. But buzz words and aphorisms abound in this space.

Can we actually make a meaningful difference?

I’ve found that traditional practices of Knowledge Management (KM) and Organization Development (OD) have struggled when it comes to getting people meaningfully engaged on the topic of learning. It can be an abstract discussion. Uncomfortable with ambiguity and not knowing, most of us quickly we turn to process manuals, documenting what we think we know, or running training classes.  For KM and OD to evolve .. for the modern organization to truly embark on learning how to learn .. we must change the approach.

And what role does organized Education play in all this?

I discuss some ideas for this in The DNA of Collaboration (Ch.19).  In today’s virtual Book Tour conversation, let’s discuss a few of the key points:

  • Q1. KM should help knowledge moves through organizations and generate value. Does this happen where you work?
  • Q2. Does an OD function in your organization exist? Does it help teach people to learn?
  • Q3. What are the synergies between KM and OD?
  • Q4. How can organized Education influence/guide this evolution?
  • Q5. Senge and Wheatley have said much on learning in the collaborative context. Is it still relevant?
  • Q6. New thinking about change (per Hagel): a shift from structure to flow, reflecting how we learn. Agree?

You can join the conversation via TweetChat here.

Note that Saturday is becoming our Global CDNA conversation, with N.Amercian (US & CN) CDNA conversations breaking out Monday evenings, moving to alternate weeks in January.

Intrigued?  Reach out, let me know your thoughts.

Chris Jones, aka @sourcepov, author