Two powerful words of change are ‘as if’. In Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, she talks about the power in change movements of the ‘politics of prefiguration’, acting as if a desired change has happened. I’ve seen the power of ‘as if’ as a lever for change in many contexts.
With ‘what if’ we can conceive a future different to today. With ‘as if’ we can start to bring that future into existence. We can act now ‘as if’ our desired future is here.
As a young manager, I wanted some day to be CEO. To help me realize that ‘what if’, I started acting ‘as if’ I had a greater position in the organization. Acting as if challenged me to learn how to more senior executives acted. It taught me to seek out and practice skills that I would need in later roles. Importantly, people reacted to my acting as if by respecting my leadership, giving me greater responsibilities and helping me see what more I needed to learn (often pointedly). Acting as if I was CEO ultimately brought about the chance to become one.
I advocate working out loud as a practice because we can’t think our way to a new way of acting. We are better to act as if our changes are here. The process of working out loud shows people they have the skills they need and that many of their fears are overrated. Acting as if everyone is working out loud surfaces the issues with working out loud that need to be solved.
In Change Agents Worldwide we work as a network organization. We work as if one of the dominant future models of work is here now. It isn’t always easy and we make mistakes. However by working through the real issues of action together we are solving problems that others will need to solve later. Acting as if is far more valuable than debating the many scenarios that the future will hold.
Many desired changes are changes of mindset. Often all that is needed to bring these about is to act as if they have occurred. Being more confident is hard on its own. Acting as if you are more confident is way to learn, experience the change and reinforce the new mindset. You also discover that those who act with confidence are treated by others as confident people. Being a leader who can influence others is not a role. It is a mindset that meets influence in your relationships with others. Acting as if you are a leader will win you more influence or help you understand what you need to win more.
Acting as if turns speculation into an experiment. Acting as if will surprise you with your readiness for change and the acceptance your changes will meet. Acting as if helps you learn what is required for successful change. Acting as if surfaces the problems and stakeholder conflicts that you will only find by doing the work of change. Any change is more robust when it has been through the process of being put into action now.
What change do you want? How would you act if it had happened today?