Change starts with you

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When Bettina ran  a series of 3 1-day workshops for the British Quality Foundation in 2012 and 2013 she was also asked to contribute to the BQF’s Journal titled ‘UK Excellence’. Following you can read the full article, which was written for the journal in May 2012.

Original publication: British Quality Foundation, May 2012


The call for innovation is everywhere: in business, in government and in society. Yet at the same time there is a painful awareness that it is not always easy to answer that call. I believe we need to address three disconnects in order to achieve the kind of innovation required to secure our future.

1. The disconnect between innovation output and input

We need to move from innovation driven by what is technically possible, to innovation based on what is necessary and desirable from a wider societal point of view. Instead of customer focus I believe we need a more human-centric approach, and a deeper understanding of what prevents us as human beings from developing, pursuing and accepting radical solutions. As Italian philosopher and writer Niccolò Machiavelli said, “Nothing is more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and only lukewarm supporters in those who may do well under the new.”

“Motivational and inspirational approaches are more powerful than fear and control”

2. A disconnect of individual and organisation

On the one hand we see bottom-up movements, a willingness to seek change and take action, on the other we find increasing levels of disengagement and apathy inside organisations and institutions. We hear talk about what organisations do to us – seemingly forgetting that organisations are made up of people like us. We say ‘they’ must change, occasionally that ‘we’ must change, but rarely that ‘I’ must change. We should listen to Gandhi, who said, “You need to be the change you want to see in the world.”

3. A disconnect of decision and implication

I believe that decision makers are too protected from observing and feeling the impact and consequences of the actions and decisions they make. How many bosses who decided to lose 20% of their workforce have to face the individuals being made redundant? In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of an independent India, “It is only too easy to make suggestions and later try to escape the consequences of what we say.”

What to do about it?

  • Acknowledge our reluctance to change and find ways to address the resistance. Motivational and inspirational approaches are more powerful than fear and control. People do not so much resist change as being changed. As author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
  • Imbue a sense of responsibility in every individual, not only for ourselves but also for the implications of our actions. To speak in the words of social psychologist Eric Fromm, “The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions, the more our heart hardens; the more often we make the right decisions, the more our heart softens – or better perhaps, becomes alive.”
  • To minimise negative consequences of our actions we need to understand implications for planet and people, not only profit. The wisdom of the North American tribe, the Iroquois, puts it as follows, “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”
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