Organisation Development Consultant

The paradoxical theory of change

[ 2-minute read ]

This is an idea from Gestalt Systems Development, which is an offshoot of Gestalt psychology, but focuses on organisations and other human systems.

The paradox it refers to is that change happens more naturally, easily – even organically – the more we connect with what is. This is counterintuitive — thus, the “paradox” in the title.

Most people think that change has to be hard work: a long slog to become something new, different, better.

And sometimes it is. But this theory makes the case that the more deeply aware of our current reality we are … The more we see it, feel it, experience it in depth — in all of its discomfort or pleasure, familiarity or surprise – the easier it is to move on, and take our next development step.

In other words: it can help to stop trying so hard to envision where we’d like to be or what we’d like to change. Instead, we could aim to become more fully awake to who and where we are now, and to what is really going on around here.

Our efforts to change can keep us stuck.

Often, our efforts to change are aimed at avoiding the discomfort of the present moment. Unfortunately, this can actually keep us stuck, grinding away at problems that we need to develop past, rather than solve.

It may be more constructive — and ultimately, less painful and inefficient — to live into where we are now: feel how it feels; journal about it; together, look at ourselves, our teams, our organisations in the proverbial mirror; observe every metaphorical fold and wrinkle.

Once we’ve connected deeply enough to our current reality, it’s as if a switch trips, and often change begins to unfold of its own accord.

About these resources

These articles are for people who work with and in organisations of any kind – as leaders, managers, formal or informal change agents. If you are trying to work more consciously and effectively with change in your organisation, I hope you’ll find some ideas here that make your work (and your life) a bit easier, and your organisation a more effective, creative and positive place to be.

If you would like to engage around these ideas, ask a question or discuss the possibility of working together, please drop me a line.