Change and choice as emergent LO5442

Julie Beedon (
Thu, 08 Feb 1996 09:26:10

Replying to LO5390 --

>Taking this conversation in the sense of change as an emergent phenomenon,
>perhaps organizational change is a process of individuals assessing a
>given situation, generally a complex one, and discovering what appears to
>them to be the proper course of action. For some it will mean radical
>change, for others stolid resistance, with most falling somewhere in
>between. The challenge for organizations is to find a course of action
>that most, if not all, of the individuals can live with. Change
>management, as we have discussed on this list, becomes a process of
>helping those more resistant to the group re-direction to accept it. It's
>a process of alignment, of developing a shared awareness of both the
>situation and what it calls for.

I also think I interpreted what Tobin said to mean that it was less
conscious than this... perhaps things change and some people just go with
the flow .... others may decide to proactively progress the movement and
others to resist it... The bonus with progressing the sort of alignment
you are describing is that the whole thing could become much more
'visible' to everyone in the system and by making choices about the
direction they can collectively create a future they would prefer rather
than finding themsleves in a place they wish they had never travelled

>This is difficult for a variety of reasons: partly because our ability to
>perceive any given situation is limited; partly because we have trouble
>getting out of our own "stuff" and seeing what the situation calls for,
>however we understand it; and partly because reasonable, well-intentioned
>people will disagree about what's best.

I believe it can be done - I have seen things like future search and real
time strategic change engage people in processes of developing common
ground and common databases which enable then to determine a future they
all want to create...

>It's the people who make up the organization and the system. Therefore, I
>would suggest that as the system (however we characterize it) changes, it
>affects our understanding of the situation (however we define it) in which
>we find ourselves, which changes our sense of what's to be done.

In a personal reply to Tobin I said

MMMmmmm and I bet this is closer to what happens than my original point
about people changing... but then what is the system... and how does it
get changed??? Is it a number of small decisions by people which when
brought together snowball into some bigger systemic changes we had not
anticipated... and would not have wanted... and why do people make the
small decisions ... I heard the notion once of the 'tyranny of the small
decision' and it is a concept I tend to relate to 'out of town' shopping
... ie we decide as individuals to go to the big out of town supermarkets
and malls and (in the UK at least) we lose our beautiful towns and their
shopping centres... planners are starting to say no... so another change
.... simulations must help for then we can see the impact of lots of small
'changes' people make on the whole system.... and I think that is where my
thinking came from ie if we all carried on doing the same things would the
same things happen .... we must be changing our thinking and actions all
the time without realising it for change to be happening so rapidly..
maybe it is the exponential effect of it all .... WOW!!!!

>Completing the circle, as our limited understanding changes, so too does
>our sense of how we can best contribute to the system as well as get the
>most out of it. Perhaps the more we learn about how the system works, the
>better we can accept - and perhaps even understand - the variety of
>emergent phenomena happening continually all around us. Maybe even learn
>to give up our paradigms and models and accept the flow of the river of
>life (oops - didn't mean to slip into philosophy).

Interestingly you used the same metaphor as me - does the river and
emergence mean total lack of influence over where we go ???

>My comment:
>This is consistent with (in fact, it help me to formulate) what I've been
>saying - change and choice are happening everywhere around us, all the
>time. I suggest that if we can see them as qualities that emerge from a
>complex, many-sided awareness that includes all of us as participants,
>then we will discover that conflict is not inevitable and to progress is
>in our nature. All we have to do is let go a little and see things as
>they are. Then our actions as individuals will accord with what's best
>for the larger whole.

I also said in my reply to Tobin

My expereince of large scale whole system change work/events is that there
is a place in the middle of it all when everyone realises - not changing
is not an option and that none of the simple answers they came in with is
enough... and so it feels messy and uncomfortable and something shifts
(like a big lever clicking things into gear...) and so the whole move
forward with more sense of purpose... and the changes in people happen in
real time rather than lagging behind (or being ahead without realising

and I love it all...............

Julie Beedon
VISTA Consulting - for a better future

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