Change and decay

It is commonplace to assert that human beings find it difficult to negotiate change. Whole industries have sprung up to assist communities to embrace change – or, perhaps more frequently, to force change upon them. Yet evolutionary science indicates that humankind itself is the result of change and contest. Today’s human population is viewed by some as the product of ancestors who successfully adapted to circumstance. Those who could not face change did not survive.

The challenge of climate change is the most obvious one before the contemporary world. Like you I read the paper and wonder, why can’t we take the relatively simple steps to mitigate the consequences of excessive carbon emissions, and then work to reverse the greenhouse effect by finding new sources of energy?

I work in a paid capacity as servant of a complex, unique organisation, a consortium within a federation, or as I prefer to describe it, a partnership of three colleges in a single institution. I also offer voluntary labour to an institution that prides itself on combining the forces of hierarchical tradition and centralised authority with democratic governance that promotes devolved responsibilities. In these duties I have come to observe that there are four kinds of people.

There are the people with the big ideas (usually seen as the alpha males), who can imagine a different set of relationships and structures that will more effectively achieve a common goal.

There are the people who think they have the big ideas, but who can’t actually imagine a different way of being and instead reinforce the same structures and relationships in order to reach a common goal.

There are the people who either cannot or will not adapt to new circumstances, and will, according to their personality type, ignore change, oppose change, or fail to understand that change is occuring in pursuit of a common goal.

Finally, there are people who can bring about change, perhaps that envisaged by some and opposed by others.

In the church, in my work, and above all in contemporary Australian government, it is commonplace to blame lack of leadership for an inability to identity and manage change.  If we came up with better techniques for change management and conflict resolution, if we had stronger leaders who articulated principles and stood by them, if we had a messiah who could win over the whole population to his or her way of thought …

Surely, however, the way to achieve change is for the four types of people to work together?

The people with the big ideas need the people who can transform them into reality.

The people who can bring about change need the people who think they have the big ideas to bed down a new reality once change is underway.

The people who are reinforcing the status quo in pursuit of change need the people who refuse to adapt to show them they are not changing anything on their own.

The people who oppose change need the people with the big ideas to push them out of their survival zone into fullness of life.

Well, actually, all we need are a few good historians who can remind us that this has all happened before, and will all happen again.


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