Being the Change

Being the Change“We but mirror the world.  All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body.  If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi is attributed with saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  It turns out he didn’t actually say that, but it’s not a bad simplification of what he did say.  Gandhi knew that change is difficult, at times even overwhelming, and pragmatically, he knew two things:

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Too Tired to Change

Five-year-olds are a source of great wisdom, if only we listened more often for the lessons they can teach us.  In response to an earlier bedtime imposed by her mother at the start of the school year, Elizabeth said, “Mommy, last week we changed what we eat because Daddy is on a diet.  Yesterday we had to get out warm clothes and put away my sandals.  And now you want me to go to bed at a new time and go to school every day.  I’m just too tired to change one more time.”
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Culture: The Iceberg That Sinks Organizational Change

IBM undertook a study to determine what gets in the way of companies being able to implement the changes that will realize corporate strategy.  The Number One reason, identified by fully half the respondents, was ‘corporate culture’.  (“The Enterprise of the Future: IBM Global CEO Study 2008.” IBM Corporation.  May 2008. www.ibm.enterpriseofthefuture).   Other academic research and consulting studies point to the same major culprit in derailing change efforts.

We all nod our heads.  We’ve had this experience and know the statistics are true.  But then we shake our heads in confusion.  What is this thing called culture, how does it work, and why is it so prominent in limiting our ability to change?  And what can we do about it?

Culture is like an iceberg, with most of its weight and bulk below the surface.

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