Since I’m in transit to New York to speak at the 140Conference about Twitter, Community & Social Innovation David Hood had planned for me to join in Gathering11 from a distance using the power of technology. However, due to what can only identified as #EPICFAIL on the technology front from both sides of the Pacific, that didn’t happen. In any case here are some of my thoughts on where change really starts.
I’ve been thinking about this topic of envisioning pathways to change and it has really brought home to me the fact that change is personal and particular as well public and general.
The sayings “as above so below” or “as within so without” seem to be good starting point for envisioning pathways to change. As Mahatma Gandhi told us “we must be the change that we seek in the world”.
This is a very confronting message. It faces each of us with admitting the possibility that to make change we need to start with very intimate kind of personal change from within.
It means admitting that we are not perfect. And it means, by corollary that other people are not perfect. It also means that to effect change we might need to start in a small and quite humble way, rather than in a grand and important way.
All great change starts small. And we must not be afraid to look to micro levels to commence a great change journey.
“All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.”Lao Tzu
Too often we are intimidated by the scale of the end result that we seek to achieve. And we and are sometimes transfixed by the difficulties. Instead, it is important to break down the elements of the change journey. We need to work out what is the one thing that we can do today to move us towards the desired outcome.
Every great human enterprise commenced with intent and commitment from a small number of people. Every great movement for change in the world started with one step. However, those that achieve their goals do so by constant focus and daily effort.
Just as a seed doesn’t grow into a healthy plant without careful husbandry, so to our dreams for change will not manifest unless we do the work.
“History consists of a series of accumulated imaginative inventions.” Voltaire
Another thing to consider about change is that one individual alone can rarely achieve it on any scale. To make change we need other people. And it is through the ability to bring other people to our cause that force is given to our intent.
But as we bring other people to our cause they will bring their own perspectives. And these perspectives can change our intent and purpose.
However if we block ourselves off from receiving those different perspectives then it can also stop the flow of people gathering with us to create the change we seek.
This comes back to that notion of personal humility as an important component of envisioning and creating change.
Accumulating the best inputs from all who have joined up and committed to making change is important. And it is important from two perspectives: respect for our fellow travellers, and to improve the content of our ideas and plans for change. Adding other people’s wisdom to our own can help ideas to evolve much faster than we alone.
“A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. A system must have an aim. Without the aim, there is no system.” W.E.Deming
Now let’s turn to the nature of the macro changes we might envision. Each of us is a part of the many systems that we participate in. When envisioning change we need to contemplate the systems that we are participating in and upholding.
We need to go back to first principles and to discern the aims of the change we envision. And it is also importent to understand the means we intend to use to create the change envisioned.
One thing that I have learned over the years is that Aldous Huxley was right: “The end cannot justify the means, for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced.”
Thus it is important to be very clear on both the what and the how of the change process.
Making change in a human being or in a society is not a trivial thing. It should not be undertaken lightly. Change is unpredictable and its results are not always certain. That is why it is so important to begin with us, the individual changemakers, and to form clear intent and be very clear on the means to be used to effect that change.
Also making change happen is a social activity and depends upon other human beings. The ability to create and nurture relationships is critical.
It really does start with us.