Simon Terry

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The Poetry of Change

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What is poetry? How can I explain it? And how do I explain it to you in prose? At moments like these prose is a brick through the poet’s window. The fate of the poet is to ignore the broken window and make good use of the brick, and of the draft. A broken window lets in a stranger world, not a familiar outside into a familiar inside, that’s gone to ruin, but rather a type of new encounter of the mind and its art—the air is welcome, the air is unwelcome. And still there’s the poet’s conductor, the cosmic madman in the mind, urging it all to poem. – Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Driving change in organisations can feel at times a little like describing the work of poetry in prose. The change agent speaks a different language and sees a different future. You are inclined to be treated as a madman. The art and poetry of change is embrace the discomfort and to leverage the opposition and disruption to creative ends.

Ignore the Broken Window

Change means breaking things. Many things will need and deserve to be broken. Some will be the things that you don’t want to lose. Many of the most difficult breakages will come from the pressure change puts on personal relationships.

Accept this breakage or jeopardise the change.

There is real personal discomfort for a change agent in this breakage. They can see different ways and want change urgently. Often it takes a long time for others to come on the journey and to ignore the damage of the path to a new future. Things might need to feel more broken before the new ways of working are embedded and effective.  If the people who aren’t coming on change are close friends or powerful players it can be quite uncomfortable.

Accept this discomfort or jeopardise the change.

A change agent understands that there is a greater purpose and benefits from better ways of working. They need to continue to act and share despite the discomfort because only conversation and example will create the path to new change. They need to communicate the change in language others can understand.

Make Good Use of the Brick and the Draft

The disruption of change will draw attention and conflict. The temptation is to seek to minimise this conflict in the approach to change. Attention is a scarce commodity. Conflict will help people focus on the changes and encourage them to understand. Don’t minimise the conflict and focus. Leverage it. Engage people in their own terms. Discuss the issues that people want to address.

Use the brick and accelerate the change.

The conflict of change is also an opportunity to leverage additional external perspective. Invite people to look outside the organisation. Let a draft of new ideas enter the organisation as people seek to understand and engage with the change. Encourage people to look to the networks outside the newly broken windows. Some of these ideas will create new conflict and new opportunities. There will be ideas there to foster and to develop new ways of working.  There will be evidence and case studies that help with the arguments for change

Use the draft and accelerate the change.

Urge it all to poem

Great change takes creativity. Great change finds a new and better ways of engaging others. Change Agents need to leverage creativity in their circumstances to make a poem of their change to a world speaking prose.


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