IP_Photo_farmer_looking_at_field_largeHope for Change

A couple of months ago I was speaking with a leader. He was bemoaning the lack of change he was seeing where he was leading. But when I started to poke around as to what he was doing differently to instigate the change he wanted to see, it amounted to waiting. He was hoping for change without doing anything about it.

Hopeful Farmer

What if he were a farmer. What if I were standing on the edge of his field, listening to him lament the lack of crops and his heart-felt desire to see his fields full of fruit. What if I then asked when the last time he tilled the ground was and he shrugged his shoulders. What if I asked when he had spread fertilizer and he said, “Well, that cost money, you know.” What if I asked what the last soil tests indicated and he wasn’t aware of the method. What if I then asked what kind of seed was in the ground and how much water it had received and he said, “There is no seed in the ground.” That farmer is going to starve.

3 Ways To Instigate Change

There are always things we can do to instigate change. Here are three we can do:

1. Till the ground.

Upheaval is part of the process. This is hard and messy work. A few years ago the concept of creative destruction was in vogue. In essence it is the idea that new innovation creates new structures and destroys old structures. Explaining why the upheaval is good is futile though. People hate change.

There is another way to go about it. I think the axiom holds true that implementing change starts by convincing people why they can’t stay where they are, not why change is good. Make people beg for upheaval. No doubt, convincing people why they can’t remain is hard work, just like tilling is for the farmer. But it produces more fruit than the energy put into a making a case for change. No one ever likes change until they hate where they currently are.

2. Plant some seed.

Change agents often speak of reverse engineering the problem. They will say to start with the desired outcome and then work backward. There is definitely situations where that is appropriate. The problem is so much of what we want to see is a miracle. Life change, for example, is a miracle. How do you reverse engineer that? Even for the farmer, he has to skip the fruit, the plant, and the bud, and back-up all the way to the seed, before he can grab hold of something tangible and personally enter the picture.

Reverse engineering has its place, but it can be paralyzing. Just meet with the person, share the idea, or create the event. Start with whatever tangible action is in your control. Do what you can do that will set the stage for the miraculous. Not the other way around.

3. Plant a different seed.

I don’t know if they do this today, but I have heard of farmers using the crop rotation method, knowing that different crops use different nutrients in the soil. Once the ground is drained of certain elements, it doesn’t matter how much effort is put into tilling the ground or the quality of the seed, the soil has changed. If a different seed isn’t used, the crop will be a bust.

All of us are working in cultural soil that is changing. Abraham Lincoln said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Those words are similar to Einstein’s idea of not solving problems with the same kind of thinking used to create them. New ideas and tactics are like trying different seeds. “In times of drastic change,” says Eric Hoffer, “it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves well equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Instigating the change you want to see may require learning what the right seed is that you need to plant in the soil you have today, so you can have the kind of crop that you want in the future.

Do you want to see change? If you stand around waiting, you’ll see things change around you, but not in the direction you want. Start with what is at hand and expect that at some point the miraculous kicks in.

Title Signature Screenshot Cartoon 2015