This is the postponed post, summarizing my recent posts on the necessity of introducing newness as the core of your change strategy.
- There is no mechanical, “7 steps to change”, procedure that will reliably produce strategic change, because targets of change advocacy are complex rather than mechanical systems. Complex system will respond to every effort we make to change them, changing themselves to counter our effort.
- Because of this unavoidable reality, our change advocacy has to introduce our targets to real novelty, innovation, newness-something they haven’t experienced before. The charge to a advocacy change organization is to continue to invent this novelty and make the target pay attention to it.
- When we introduce this true novelty to the target, they will begin to adjust to it. At some point, they will have adjusted enough that we will get little further change out of repeating that effort, so surprising to the target initially. If we continue to repeat our initially successful effort, we will expend more resources for less effect over time. This very common process often settles into a cycle of signal and response that can’t produce strategic change.
- So, it isn’t enough to come up with a single good novelty. We must keep doing that until the target produces outcomes that actually embody the values of our advocacy. This is hard to do, and requires a different approach to change advocacy from the approach we use in all our other organization management practices. Which is to say, people who are great at managing standard aspects of organizations aren’t necessarily good at managing strategic change efforts. (And vice versa.)
- As an example, efficiency management as a goal in advocacy eliminates our ability to produce strategic change in our target. We must accept the inefficiency of developing and using novelty in our change initiatives. And we must be quick about it.
- The most effective use of novelty is to trigger change in a target with something new, and then introduce another novelty before the target has adjusted to the first one.
- Doing this disrupts the target’s decision-making system and produces a sense of loss of control in the target’s decision-makers. In practice, this means that we introduce small novelties more or less as experiments, watch for the trend in the response of our target, and then immediately introduce another novelty modified to capitalize on that response. This also requires a much deeper understanding of the target’s decision-making than we usually have.
- This cycle of disruption is not just unique to the strategic change outcome desired. It is unique to the change of the target as it tries to adapt to our continuing introduction of novelty.
For a deeper view of all this, go through Cynefin 101. For a much deeper view, go through Dave Snowden’s Introduction to the Cynefin Framework.
Next time, I’m going to try to apply the ideas in these posts to the new context within which our disability community now finds itself.
Next Post: Responding Strategically to Authoritarianism