Where We Can Learn About Change

by Joe Flower

International Copyright 1996 Joe Flower All Rights Reserved
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How can you learn the skills of change? For these are deep skills, and this is a lifelong path. If you find a book titled Sixty-Second Change Master, or The Idiot's Guide to Change, pull yourself up gently by your tie and give yourself a reality check: does this seem like something with three easy steps, or six, or 10? There is no quick way. No one web site, or even one book, no single visit from a consultant or speaker, can teach you and your organization how to find and use the power of change.

Yet for many of us, the need to learn these skills is immediate, sandwiched in with the need to learn more organizational skills, keep up with new technologies, build a whole new expertise in information sciences, become expert in the complexities of compensation, master contracting law -- the list seems endless.

It's a long path, there is no time, and the need is immediate, so where do you start? These are a few of my favorite resources that you might find useful in the struggle to become adept at dealing with change. This is my list, what I have discovered looking through my particular lens. We all develop, over time, our own personal strategies for dealing with change. There is a saying: "Many paths, one mountain." As you move further on your path, as an individual and as a leader in an organization, you may well find other resources that excite your passion, teach you something, give you new eyes. I would love to hear about them.

Until then, here are some of the resources that I have noticed. If you would like to enter more deeply into this universe of thought with me, try out some of my favorite sources:


We are our own best teachers. For learning about change, the resources within ourselves lie in confusion and failure. We all crave clarity, yet our clarity about what we know can blind us. Until we are willing to be confused about what we feel we know -- willing to distance ourselves, at least temporarily, from our certainty -- we have no hope of learning anything further, larger, different, more.

We all strive for success, and I would not wish failure on anyone. But we all do fail. If we are honest with ourselves, we fail quite often -- we make a bad decision, or end up crosswise with our spouse, instead of just listening. These failures are all about us, and they are exquisite teaching devices equipped with industrial-strength memory aids.

When I fail, I have a powerful impulse to distance myself from the failure -- tell myself all the ways it which it was not my fault, mention it to no one, "put it behind me," as the PR folks say. But it does me no good behind me. It is full of information, exactly tailored to me, because it is my failure, no one else's. If I am not to be doomed to committing the same mistake over and over, I must put my failure beside me, sit it down in a comfortable chair, bring it a cup of coffee, and pump it for every bit of information that it can bring me about how I failed, and how I can do better.

Personal practices

It is not possible to change your organization without changing yourself. If you change yourself, you will change your organization. The two are inextricably linked. If you seriously intend to help your organization go through the massive changes of the coming years, you must set out on a path of changing your own life, of learning the skills of change and applying them first to yourself. There are many retreats, seminars and workshops available, from the New Warrior movement to religious retreats. Look for that place of balance between comfort and challenge. A nice comfortable retreat might be refreshing, but it will change nothing.

One of the earliest and most important parts of any program of personal change is setting the agenda for your own personal future by bringing to the table all your hopes for the future, your beliefs and assumptions, your values and goals -- the rudder you put your hand on when you step back into anamnesis in the midst of turbulence. Some very useful seminars are built around this fundamental skill of surfacing your deepest values and changing your life to pursue them. The best of them include the Franklin Quest seminars (put on by the people who make the Franklin Planner datebooks, at 1-800-819-1776), and the Covey Leadership Center's "First Things First" seminars (1 800 680 6839 or international 001 1 801 377 1888).

Any change is, in part, physical. You can understand it in your head, but until it lives in your body, it won't change your behavior. If you wish to be different, you must learn to move differently, to make different physical decisions. What works for me is a martial art called Aikido, which effectively maps many of the deepest principles of dealing with change into physical movements dealing with attackers. Look in the phone book under "Martial Arts" or under "Karate, Judo, and other martial arts."

Of course, I also have a list of favorite books that you might like as well.

Mastering change is a long process, but unlike building a cathedral or growing apples, as soon as you start you will have something that you can use some insight, a different way of looking at what is confronting you, something to help jar you to a more creative strategy.

How change works | Change happens| The five fundamentals of change | What is your goal? | Core concepts| Skills | Touching what is, touching what might be | Paradox | Heading for the open space | Habits of mind | Scenario spinning | Coming out | Breaking the trance | Finding a new path | Why it's important | Four quadrants | Psychological roots | Change Processes | Main Page