Wavelengths of Change

In a meeting last week, we discussed adoption of mobile technologies. I suggested that different folks would operate and adopt at different wavelengths. So a one size fits all expectation might not work out. Some will take a shorter focus and try to change something small without seeking a larger goal of system alignment.


Some efforts will seek that broad signal and gradually move towards a holistic change. When I initially thought about it, I thought in terms of two wavelengths. The first, I thought, was evolutionary and the second revolutionary. On reflection, it really seems like there’s more to it than this.

Maybe efforts could be categorized into three areas of focus:

  • Isolated transformation (incremental / isolated)
  • System evolution (measured / holistic)
  • System revolution (radical / holistic)

This isn’t about novel innovation for novel innovation’s sake (which tends to sound like “because it’s cool”). Think about this type of change as an effort to scale up ways of doing business that make a positive difference.

Isolated transformations tend not to be aimed at long-term system change. This type of change seems to be common. Think about the small, incremental transformations you’ve seen. If these don’t lead to more holistic evolution, where do they lead? And why don’t the goals of these micro-transformations connect with more holistic goals? I imagine that the answer is that these types of changes are easier to accomplish and less threatening to organizational control structures. If I wanted to avoid changing the system, why would I make any efforts toward change?  Everything is connected. Isolated transformations don’t make much sense to me.

That’s not to say that hacks and smaller efforts can’t tie to a larger system goal. It’s just that usually… they don’t. If you’re familiar with e-learning deployments, you’ve probably seen insulated efforts that don’t connect or tie to bigger picture efforts. While these might be loosely tied to a business goal, they tend to be “one and done” and “fire and forget”.

System evolution defines a tempered approach that migrates and scales organizational practices, policies, and processes toward something better.  System evolutions happen over time but always start with the end in mind.

System revolution is a less tempered approach that can violently disrupt a larger system to enact broad change. Like the system evolution, revolutions start with the end in mind but through the force and speed of the change can cause collateral damage to organizational structures. When systems are really broken, a revolution might be called for.


In every case, successful holistic changes are driven by visionary foresight.  If you’re driving toward a change, what kind of change wavelength are you on?

Take the Lead in Change

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”

– Niccolo Machiavelli

Photo credit: nanagyei

A Change Reaction Model

Earlier this year I was fortunate to get an invite to an awesome event in Sedona, AZ. What an incredible week. You can read about UTAOU here. At least for the next few months, the stuff posted here will be directly connected to that event.

Leading up to UTAOU, I read a few things that got my wheels turning. One of these articles by Reuben Tozman on eLearn Magazine titled “Going Mainstream”. In the article, Reuben highlights the shortcomings of a profession too often loosely coupled with the business strategy to meet it’s obligations (as a profession). I can’t disagree with this view or the view expressed in this post, also penned by Reuben. In fact, I’m in vehement agreement. Reading these articles, I thought to myself, “self, this seems like a simplification of the issue. It seems to point to individuals as the root cause.” Isn’t there more to it than this?

So I set off to build my own simplified model of change reactions and the conditions that accelerate or inhibit these reactions. While at UTAOU, I grabbed some spare moments to sketch the model. And here’s what I came up with. Continue reading A Change Reaction Model