MindShift

TRANSFORMATION – INSIGHT – LEADERSHIP


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Don’t believe everything you think

Deconstructing Transformative Processes for Individuals

Once in a while people want to change something personal, learn more, grow or reinvent themselves on a different level. Here, I want to take a closer look at those change processes where simple, technical solutions don’t work keep producing limited outcome. If the solution is not ready at hand or fails repeatedly the challenge requires most often an adaptive solution. Resistances and pushbacks that are arising make it difficult to get to the root causes of unwanted behaviour or undesired personal realities. This is where it gets interesting.

At the bottom of these phenomena are patterns with a combination of properties that are

  • difficult to detect (fast, automatic, hidden, with defraction),
  • difficult to understand (non-logic, pre- or non-conceptual origin, based on incorrect ‘meaning-coupling’), and
  • actively protected with what can be described as an immune reaction against the intended change (“immunity to change”): the wrong meaning-coupling or ‘mapping error’ is considered or perceived of existential importance for some sort of survival– hence resistances and pushback are getting more intense the closer the individual gets to the source of the unwanted behaviour (see graphic)

However, with the right understanding of the nature of these processes, a willingness to explore and stay in the process despite of discomfort and resistances, and with the adequate tools and guidance, transformative change is not only possible, but can take days instead of lifetimes, hours instead of years. We are talking legitimate shortcuts. 

deconstructing patterns of change

In case you are dealing with personal challenges that are automatic, lightening fast, go unobserved, are hidden from your own logic and seem somehow protected, have a closer look at the course we are offering through EZC.Partners in May in Italy:

For more information click on EZC.Partners website.


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Driving development vs scaling change

Group transformation processes, much like individual transformative processes, follow different phase with distinctly recognizable stages. According to these patterns, a skilled coach/facilitator can keep the individual or the group in the process. The main task is to counteract the conscious or unconscious attempts to escape or to sabotage the process because of phenomena that are considered uncomfortable, irritating or even painful (e.g. Scott M. Peck’s “Groan Zone/Authentic Chaos”/ R. Kegan’s “Immunity to Change”).   

Individual processes can take the form of individual coaching, intensive retreats in self-leadership with awareness based technologies. They are geared towards reintegrating disassociated parts of the self-system or the dis-identification with mapping errors in the meaning making system of the individual.Group processes can have different intentions that go from more coherence in teams, integrating pathologies, towards more authentic participation, innovation and other emergent properties. Most of the time they are not automatic and require facilitated and committed process work with the respective team or group. In an ideal case, group facilitation requires only those minimum elegant structures that keep the group in process while resisting the temptation to go with any of the easy solutions that inevitably pop up along the way, while constantly scanning the quality of presence that is arising in the group and mirror that back. This would ideally also require a kind of ‘process literacy’ of the participants; the ability to distinguish between the self and the (power) moves of identity. The phases and stages of these processes along with the phenomena normally showing up are pictured above. For further reading on the dynamics of group processes see Bonnitta Roy’s article in Kosmos Magazine or this chapter published on group processes. The process traps and the tools and method to counteract escape mechanisms are pictured in Slides below. Please note that the representation with the U-Figure is oversimplified, these processes are non-linear and can’t be followed as a recipe (e.g. “step 5: find deeper meaning and purpose”.) Each phase is emergent from the prior one and can’t be planned, forced, constructed, or jumped. The figure U makes only sense as a coherent view in hindsight and thus differs from the majority of Theory U applications.

While both individual and group/team processes require time, place, effort, training, personal commitment, nurture, practice and guidance, they have a place in adult – , leadership – and team development as well as innovation training, but not for scaling and shifting larger collectives or organisations. Pictures 4 and 5 show  how working with large scale differs in its approach. Complexity thinking and cognitive science deliver the design principles for sensemaking approaches (see Prof. D. Snowden’s work/Cognitive Edge). Here, we work with triggering people into paying attention (cognitive activation) while they volunteer to deliver real, self-signified, and real time data about what is actually happening as opposed to what should be happening. The shift of the whole collective (change) is an effect of the sum total of all micro-shifts of everyday behaviours and attitudes in a more generative direction, toward an ‘adjacent possible’.

Team training, group processes and leadership development as well as internal capacity building might still be desirable in specific instances to complement this process. However, the beauty of this approach to change is at least twofold:

a) with this approach no one has to go a developmental growth process and are allowed to be who they are and have the values they have, while at the same time shifts and change are possible, and they can chose how. 
Thus, sensemaking is complementing adult development while counteracting the developmental bias seen in many (integral) change initiatives, where larger scale change is seen almost exclusively through the lens of growth to higher levels of consciousness as the only way to solve complex problems. This attitude has a built-in arrogance that, sure enough, creates pushback and resistance to change.

b) it scales, with immediate impact, in real time. This is exactly what we need.

This blog was previously published here.