On change and control

I’m taking a course from the Master’s in Community Development at UVic: Practices and Perspectives on Forging Change. Although it is an online course I’m finding it very interesting. Last week we had an opportunity to share our perspectives on change and the skills we had to develop in order to be more effective at managing change in our professional life. Some people wrote about the difficulties that changes pose; sometimes we have to deal with changes we don’t want to accept, therefore we wish we had better skills at controlling change.

What inspired me to write this post was the professor’s response to this matter. He provided a systems perspective on the subject of control when he asked “how do you control chaos?” after describing the interconnections of our social systems. His comment reminded me of the presentation that Frances Westley did at the University of Toronto and of a simulation participants did to show how systems are in constant change and how when a little piece  changes, it has a ripple effect on the whole.

The professor’s point basically is that we don’t control chaos, so control is not a skill we should develop; what we need is to learn how to observe patterns in the complexity and think about how those patterns can support or hinder our vision for change. In other words, learn how to shape patterns in ways that are productive.

Now, I think it is easier said than done. To think in systems, to observe patters and to shape them must require years of practice. I could say that is the beauty of life-long learning! But at the same time I feel that time is ticking regards many global and environmental issues that need to be resolved. So how do we develop the skills needed to shape complexity in a timely manner?

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