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Monthly Insights

What Is Our Capacity for Change?

March 27, 2018
Stuart Hardy Monthly Insights

In this edition of Monthly Insights, Stuart Hardy, Director of Executive Education, looks at why understanding our perception and capactiy for change over time is vital to creative leadership. 

Capacity for change is a conceptual topic. At any given time a person or group of people has a capacity for change; a willingness and ability. If we better understand what this capacity is then we can be more effective as creative leaders, guiding our organizations and people in times of transformation.

The first thing a new coach does when they take on a new athlete is to try to understand who they are working with. But this understanding is not limited to the status quo. Sure, muscle mass, oxygen uptake and race-times are important, but they do not show the ‘capacity’ or ability the person has to improve over a given space of time. This is a complex relationship between the past, present, and future.

Firstly, there is the legacy or past, as an indicator of the difference between ‘then and now’. This articulates a potential journey that the individual could continue on. Then there is the present which is mainly focused on physical condition. And finally, there is the future which connects with goals, aspiration, and motivation.

So in summary, our capacity for change is inherently linked to where we have been, where we are, and where we could and want to be. If we combine this with a deeper understanding of our attitude to change itself, then we have some parameters we can work within. Most people when asked, say, "Yes, people are afraid of change." However, is it the change itself we are afraid of, or something about it? Ask the same people if they like to visit new places, try new restaurants or learn new things, and you get a very different answer. So what is going on? It is in fact the ‘loss of control’ that one experiences at times of change that we are afraid of and not the change itself. That is why when we make the choice to visit a new place, we embrace it, because ‘we are in control’ of the choice. Our level of control is a direct relationship between what we perceive to be the scale of the challenge and our perceived ability to solve it. This ability includes support, skills, understanding, resources etc.

If creative leaders better understand the components of change, then they can be more effective both in terms of content and human behaviors. This combination of emotional intelligence and sensitivity to the context is a vital skill for today’s agile modern leader.