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What is transformational change?

Change to stay the same is no longer enough...

Why transform?

Are you facing increasing challenges in the face of unprecedented, rapid change? Are you struggling to run faster to stand still? In such circumstances it is no longer enough to change to keep things the same. Instead, deeper and more fundamental transformation changes are needed to shift to more agile ways of working and align to the changing world. Understanding what kind of shift is needed, how to work through confusion and complexity, and the approaches needed to bring about meaningful and systemic change can be a major challenge. 

What is transformation?

A first step on a journey of transformation is to understand that transformational change is qualitattively very different to other kinds of change. Transformation is different to, for example, adjustments or reforms, which generally focus on change to sustain, or improve a status quo. Instead, transformation is a deeper and more fundamental change. It usually includes changes not just in technologies and operations of an organisation or group, but also in systems, mindsets, cultures, and sense of purpose or meaning. A transformation then involves a significant pattern shift towards something that is, and feels, fundamentally different.  

Transformation to a butterfly

A pweorful analogy is the transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly. The caterpillar dissolves itself in a chrysalis, then guided by what are called 'imaginal cells', it re-allocates the same resources to create something new. Rather than change to produce a fatter, fitter, faster caterpillar, the change leads to something fundamentally different: a butterfly that can fly, drink nectar, and procreate. In short, the caterpillar has undergone an existential shift to something with a very different function, ability, and purpose. 

The butterfly analogy highlights that imaginative visions are needed to guide any kind of transformation. It also highlights that active effort is needed to support the active dissolution of the old and the re-allocation of the same resources to create something new. It avoids simply adjusting to create something that is more efficient. It also does not rely on external resources - such as asking government or mum and dad for more money. 


To be successful, transformation - whether for an individual, group, organisation initiative or even society - therefore needs to support dissolution, re-allocation, imagination and creation. A successful transformation will therefore combine  hospices for the old and midwifery for the new.  


Developing strategy & capability for transformation

There are three important ways you can learn how to apply transformational thinking in your work, organisation, initiative or for your own personal development and change:


Workshops & Facilitation: Collectively map what kind of change is needed, envision very different patterns to transform to, and then work systematically to identify actions already in play that can be reinforced to support a deeper systemic and cultural change over time. Such work can lead to powerful strategies and learning journeys that develop capabilities for change. 

Training: Develop a group's capacity for more effective and collective transformational leadership, such as through exploring the different modes of governance needed for an organisation to undergo deep change, or how to build in the habits that enable you to go beyond simply 'managing' day to day challenges to delivering high ambition. 

Inner development: Transformation on the 'outside' usually only comes from more personal transformations on the 'inside', such as the deeper personal change in thinking and in how we understand our relationship to the world. Such change can come from intensive personal development programmes, such as those offered in's Master Classes. 

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