Uniting the like-minded agents of change is a common first step in creating change. Too much unity of the like-minded is also a path to failure.
Undoubtedly change agents benefit from connection, collaboration and collective force. The life of a change agent can be a lonely one. Having others to share the load matters.
Building an overly united collective of people equally oriented to change has its dangers for the success of any change:
– Shared Context: People embrace ideas when they share sufficient context to understand them. Uniting a group of change agents can rapidly accelerate the sharing of knowledge within the group. Soon that group will have lost some shared context with those that need to embrace change.
– Us & Them: Silos are inevitable in any attempt to draw a ring around a group united in purpose. Without great care, unity will also come at a cost of factionalism as people seek out those who hold views of those closer to their own. All of this connection is in the opposite direction to the external engagement that drives change.
– Grand Plans: United we dream. We plan lots of steps without engaging those who must join us in the changes. United we dream. Dreams inspire, but don’t deliver.
– Power of Conflict: Interaction, debate and conflict helps keeps ideas evolving and relevant. Flaws appear when ideas are challenged and when ideas are tested by diverse views. Unity will reduce conflict. No change prospers by talking only to the converted.
– Compromise: Surrounded by those equally convinced, compromise can feel weak. Standing ground against the system looks like an option and is commonly raised. This gesture of pulling rank on the system may come with a giddy sense of opportunity but is actually a failure, alienating others and preventing further progress to change. Opting back-in later is always challenging.
So how do you get the benefits of greater connection without the risks?
– Share your story: Work out loud. Keep putting ideas out and discussing them widely
– Keep the doors open: Constantly engage with new people, both like-minded, neutral and opponents. Any time your ideas are not being disturbed once a day you are in an echo chamber.
– Favour unity of purpose & action over dogma: People only need to be agreed enough on the direction to work together. The change agents don’t need to agree each last point of implementation yet. Details will come in time.