Posted on January 8, 2011


Change. What do we believe about change? The human race tends to hold deeply rooted assumptions about change; what is possible and what is not possible. The first step to learning and change is stepping back and identifying our assumptions. Not identifying what we say we believe, but identifying what we really believe. Our actions are a reflection of our deeply rooted assumptions and beliefs. The problem is that they are often invisible to us unless we take the time to examine ourselves and what is really going on inside . . . under the façade, beneath the smiles and nods, behind the words. As the Great Questioner (Socrates) once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

How can we create a system that allows this? And then think that nothing can be done about it?

From Theory U by Otto Scharmer:

“We basically create organizations which . . . obtain an apparently independent existence outside ourselves and then we become prisoners of those organizations.” (Peter Senge)

Organizations work the way human beings create them. They maintain that it is “the system” that causes their problems. It’s always something external, some thing that imposes itself on them. So the reality might actually be: “Thought creates organizations, and then organizations hold human beings prisoner,” or,  as the quantum physicist, David Bohm, used to say, “Thought creates the world and then says ‘I didn’t do it!”
“To me,” continued Senge, “here’s the essence of what systems thinking is about: People begin to consciously discover and account for how their own patterns of thought and interaction manifest on a large scale and create the very forces by which the organization then ‘is doing it to me.’ And then they complete that feedback loop. The most profound experiences I’ve ever seen in consulting have always been when people suddenly say things like, ‘Holy cow! Look what we are doing to ourselves!’ . . . or ‘Given the way we operate, no wonder we can’t win!’ And what is always significant to me, in those moments, is the ‘we’, not ‘you,’ not ‘them,’ but ‘we’ . . . . A true systems philosophy closes the feedback loop between the human being, their experience of reality, and their sense of participation in that whole cycle of awareness and enactment.” (Theory U, pp. 54-55)

It is far too often, even natural, that organizations (and communities and churches) take on a life of their own. They act in ways that are meant not to serve the common good or the customer, but to sustain themselves. In doing so, the human element of community and caring is often lost. Look at America! We are so far gone down the road of professionalizing things that I wonder if community will ever be possible. I wonder if the things that were typically healed (like grief and loneliness) by community alone could ever be healed by a professional.

Until we step up and take initiative (leadership) to heal the organizations and communities that we have created, there is no hope for us as human beings. Again, it takes leadership AND believing the assumption that change is possible.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” (Einstein)