Change Leadership Lesson from Darwin
Updated: Apr 8, 2021
When Darwin wrote about survival of the fittest, he meant the best fit within the surrounding ecosystem, not the fastest or strongest. His insight contains a valuable lesson for leaders of change. If you want to make a sustainable change, design a change that will thrive in your target ecosystem. Don't create the change and then determine whether it will fit
As obvious as that sounds, leaders and leadership groups often decide on a change and then try to shoehorn it into their organisational ecosystem of individuals, groups and organisations. They assume they can force the ecosystem to adapt to their desired change.
Sometimes this works. For a while.
You are likely to get a more sustainable outcome if you approach your desired change with the gardener's mindset. Ensure that your vision for the garden, a rich picture of the result, considers the soil, the prevailing climate and the position.
Take the soil, for example. If it is unsuitable for a particular plant, the plant will not prosper. You can try to modify the soil, but as anyone who likes azaleas will know, you'll be forever battling the broader ecosystem, if you don't already have acidic soil. If you love azaleas, it might be best to consider growing them in self-contained pots, independent of the garden's general ground (a lesson here for internal venturing).
What's analogous to the soil for your change? How about the climate and the position? Pursuing this analogy might not be perfect, but it will lead your mind down paths that might otherwise remain unexplored.
It helps if you can draw the ecosystem into which you want to introduce your change. Below is an example from my new book, Gardeners Not Mechanics: How to cultivate change at work.
It shows an ecosystem for homeless people in London. The arrows represent the value that flows between the elements of the ecosystem. The next step would be to annotate emotions for each participant, but I omitted them from this example, to avoid it being too cluttered.
A picture like this one is an excellent way to explore the knock-on effects of a change and how well it will fit.