February 19, 2018

Holding back evolution

CD StackSometimes it’s tempting to try and hold back the process of change—we may think we are strong enough to hold it at bay. We may even be successful for a time.

The trouble is…

The forces of evolution will eventually become so powerful that when we finally succumb to them, they may well sweep us away completely—which is more or less what happened to the record companies when electronic file-sharing became an over-whelming force, for example; and also what happens to people in their jobs when they don’t realise the world is moving on.

(Better to adapt ahead of the trend obviously.)

The question of course is how to recognise we are in this position.

Or how to help someone else realise that they are.

Seeing the narrative is part of the answer—telling the story to ourselves, or to another.

The smaller the delta, the faster the change?

Executives listening to a presentationYou’d imagine that a big difference between the status quo and a desired alternative, the faster change would be.

That might be true in a crisis. Might be.

The rest of the time it probably isn’t. Strangely perhaps, a small gap between where somebody is at and where you’d like them to move to probably means they are more likely to take action. And then they might cross another small gap and then another, and another.


Successful influence may hinge more on accurately discerning where people are at and suggesting a small, safe-seeming change than on advocacy of a comprehensive but seemingly unreachable alternative.

Even revolution may be evolution, just faster.

Is leading revolutionary change always unpaid work?

Mahatma GandhiIn closing, the host feels it necessary to say that he does “real work” too and not all his time can be spent leading on the issue of the meeting – one of the really big challenges of our time.

Doesn’t that strike you as curious?

How come we don’t pay ourselves to work on the really big challenges? How come leading change in society is something we do when we can in our unpaid time?

It seems our economy is organized around paying people to work on the small changes – the incremental, evolutionary stuff, the well-known and the defined.

Big, poorly-understood, ill-defined, revolutionary, leading edge effort seem to be unpaid – not proper “real” work – and perhaps only for the indulgent.

Have we got that backwards, or is it just a timeless constant?