Organizational Change model LO12831

Scott Simmerman (
Sat, 8 Mar 1997 12:15:50 -0500

Replying to LO12803 --

Teaching Caterpillars to Fly

There has been a continuing dialog on change here in the LO list
(Organizational Change model LO12803, etc.) and in the TRDEV list-serve,
so change is obviously a tough issue for all of us. So, after a bit of
consideration, I thought that a story might be of benefit to those
involved in facilitating the process in the hopes that it might be useful.

Apoligies in advance for a long post but I combined and edited two recent
TRDEV posts into one that I thought would be of benefit for this forum.
Some of this is a bit of a repeat of previous postings, but the idea was
to make it complete for the benefit of new readers:

I just wrote an article for Bob Pike's Creative Training Techniques
Newsletter and will use this as the theme for two presentations at his
1997 Fall Conference. My style is to present with a series of
illustrations, climaxing with a full color transparency of a beautiful

Let me know if you would like a bit more information.

Caterpillars and Butterflies for Learning About Change

Two caterpillars are sitting on a wagon and a beautiful butterfly floats
by. The one caterpillar turns to the other and says, "You'll never get me
up in one of those things."

For the past 3 years, I have been telling that joke in my Square Wheels
workshops, with a most surprising discovery when it comes to creative
thinking and leading change.

It's a simple joke, right? But in telling the joke in Hong Kong, I didn't
get normal laughter as a reaction -- just some puzzled faces. So relying
on creative training techniques, I asked the small tables of participants
to discuss the story and come up with the meaning.

Expecting them to "get it" quickly, I was surprised as the tabletops got
more and more involved and animated - in Cantonese. After a few minutes,
I asked for The Answer. And I was more than shocked when they started
giving response after response on themes like resistance to change, fear,
inevitability of change, purpose of change and the like. I now has a list
of more than 40 possible responses to this apparenlty simple joke.

Here's what you can help others discover by using the metaphor:

* Since the joke is simple, people will get ONE answer and not even think
there are others, a powerful learning event. It's dangerous to have The
Answer because it pre-empts others from even being considered.

* Action Learning requires perspective and consideration of options.
Exercises like this have no simple reality and thus become tools for
learning and awareness.

* The richness of any solution depends on the inclusion of diverse

* Group involvement generates shared energy and peer support for change.

Obviously one does not have to teach a caterpillar to fly, the potential
is already within them. Thus the link to change. It is important that
people understand about their potential as well as the change process they
will encounter.

As Ted Forbes (LO list participant) said: "In the change from being a
caterpillar to being a butterfly, you're nothing more than a yellow, gooey
sticky mess."

Diane Mashia: "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls
a butterfly."

Change is an inevitable process.

Two other punchlines you might consider, with the latter being a metaphor
for managers:

"My mother was a moth!" (we don't all have the exact same potential)
"Caterpillars can fly, if only they'd lighten up!"

Metaphors and stories are great tools for generating involvement,
perspective and insight. They can help your workshops lighten up and fly.

Copyright Scott Simmerman, Performance Management Company, 1997

Then, Beverly Kavouras and a number of others responded privately to this
post on Teaching Caterpillars to Fly. And, given the number of questions
and comments and thoughts, I decided to make one more useful post to the

The Square Wheels wagon I use sets up the issue that we roll on Square
Wheels (inefficient and ineffective) while the round wheel ideas are
already in the wagon. This theme drove me to produce a booklet / toolkit
AND give a program at ASTD two years ago, "Square Wheels of Personal
Growth and Development."

660 people showed up for the session and rated me a 3.75 overall
(4-point). This is NOT bad considering that I had strangers talking about
their own Square Wheels at tabletops of 12 people! ("Don't let the sound
of your own wheels drive you crazy" - Eagles, Take It Easy.) And this was
my first major presentation with the Butterfly theme - it worked
beautifully. We all have the potential to be more than we are today.

Beverly asked for my list of responses to the transition theme and I
suggest that people should develop their own list of thoughts about
flying. Better that way, I think, because it becomes the group's list as
opposed to mine. With a focus on creativity, you might spend a lot more
time with it than I normally do (about 5 minutes total). A few of the
stranger ones are, "You go through stages in life and you are one step
closer to death." and "Nobody collects caterpillars."

BTW, interesting fact is that a caterpillar will eat up to 27,000 times
its bodyweight before the metamorphosis ("Caterpillars are focused on
eating and buterflies on flying and sunning themselves"). The butterfly
stage is much longer than the caterpillar one, also. Monarchs migrate up
to 2,000 miles to mate in 5 virgin forest areas West of Mexico City (and
these areas are being slowly de-timbered - ugg). No one knows how
butterflies migrate this well. But they do share a vision and shared
mission, obviously. ("Butterflies focus on reproduction while
caterpillars focus on eating!"

Another wonderful approach is to create a yellow gooey sticky mess
(remember The Ted Forbes quote) and give some to each person. (I close
with the fact that we are up to our "axels" - wagon metaphor - in this
stuff and that it makes change difficult. "Get out of the ditch and get up
on the road.")

Ted also shared this one: Take one cup of Elmer's white glue and mix well
with 1.5 cups of warm water and a bit of food coloring to make it the
right shade of yellow brown.

Mix 1.5 tablespoons of Borax (20 Mule Team stuff) with 1 cup of warm water
until dissolved.

Mix the two together and you have almost a quart of GAK-like stuff. Play
with it at the front and then give everyone some to handle. Many don't
even want to touch it but then, once they do, they like to fool with it.
It's odorless and is technically called a Colloid Suspension.

So try it to get some creative juices flowing,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Performance Management Company 3 Old Oak Drive, Taylors, SC 29687 (USA) 864-292-8700 fax 292-6222

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