Disturbing the System

Systems move to new levels of complexity because they are disturbed.  Yet there is a basic irony about all this, since systems are designed to prevent disturbances, that is, to help each person within the system to maintain a steady course.  Even so, human collectives can never transform until someone cares enough, and dares enough, to deviate and disturb them.  Remember, disturbing a system normally triggers resistance.  And here we encounter yet another underlying irony, that as long as we are  guided by normal assumptions, resistance marks the end of change, raising the specter of fear and dampening any enthusiasm for taking further action toward change.

The sacred servants understood this.  Jesus and Ghandi warn us how severe the risks can be.  Dr. King tells us that direct action requires self-purification, something the other two also advocated.  Only after we have purified ourselves can we be clear enough about our purpose and our commitment to go forward with all that the transformational entails.  Only then can we see the wisdom of disturbing the system and ultimately joining others in the dance of resistance and transformation.  Only then do we learn to trust a process that is far bigger than any one of us.

(Change the World, p. 169)


4 thoughts on “Disturbing the System

  1. Today’s blog is a reminder that resistance and change are necessary tensions in transformation. Anticipating resistance whenever we make steps to change in organizations is a required task and an acquired skill. The sacred servants understood this and were neither surprised or daunted by it. Resistance cannot become our focus in organizations. However, it is a necessary lever that enables deep change.


  2. Bob,
    Your blog posts continue to inspire and motivate me.
    Thanks so much for expanding and deepening my learning!


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