Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Challenge of Change (Ch 7)

I found this chapter particularly relevant after Tuesday's discussion. Let me begin by quoting Hallsmith's final sentence: "whole systems change comes about through co-creating a shared vision, generating a contancy of purpose, and germinating new emergent possibilities." After identifying the dynamic systems relationships and how these systems work in order to implement a new vision it is important to review different transformation strategies to determine how to successfully implement the vision. Hallsmith begins by recognizing that due to a city's complexity, metamorphasis is a better term to speak about the changes that occur when implementing a vision. Hallsmith writes of the success of servant leadership, essentially the concept that strong leaders have been servants first, additionally, that this is a leadership of service, not ego. When I was given a promotion at the small, four-person, non-profit I worked at before coming to Cornell, I felt my abilities as a leader were enhanced by the fact that I had worked for a year "in their shoes." I could use my own experience as a "servant" to be a better leader. Another principle identified by Hallsmith is innovation diffusion, a concept developed by Everett Rogers. Innovation diffusion looks at ways in which people respond to a proposed change and attempts to identify personal response patterns that can be applied more generally to the population. I felt that this principle was most applicable as both a way of anticipating how people will behave, but also as a strategy that can be used to implement change or metamorphasis. The main players in this strategy are the Innovator, Opinion Leaders or Change Agents, Trendsetters, and Conservatives or Mainstreamers. Innovators are individuals who may come up with a change but are too isolated to implement or communicate it. Change Agents have the social skills and connections to communicate the innovation to others. Trendsetters are the people that are the first to embrace the innovation. The Mainstreamers are the group who are resistant to the innovation. They need to see clear demonstration of the benefits before they embrace the innovation. An example of this would be an Innovator who sees that recycling can reduce the amount of waste they output. A Change Agent sees the social and economic benefit of recycling and uses their influence to implement a recycling program, possibly through their influence in city government in this case. Trendsetters are the first people to fully use the program, and give it enough popularity to continue. Mainstreamers may be resistant to recycling, feeling like it is too much effort but hopefully would see the results, or the economic benefit of the recycling program, such as the one in Ithaca where recycling saves on the cost of trash tags.

The other players in innovation diffusion are Iconoclasts, Reactionaries, and Curmudgeons. These outsiders are more difficult to engage and their identification in innovation diffusion demonstrates Hallsmith's other most relevant point to our recent discussion: one person really can't change anyone else and that innovations are more successful when "the people on whom the change is imposed agree to it." Hallsmith outlines several other strategies for participatory processes which engage all the affected parties. These strategies include tips on successful meetings, retreats, and conflict resolution. The greater inclusivity of the process, the greater potential for success.

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