The best way to look at a system is to learn how to subvert it

I have a severe addiction. I read the Economist weekly. I have been doing so for decades. In the October 25th 2014 edition, Schumpeter writes: “The best way to understand a system is to look at it from the point of view of people who want to subvert it.” (page 63)

During my 9 kilometre walk today, I thought how useful this sentence is for those of us who deal with change, be it as OD consultant or as change manager.

In the last decade, the powers that be have tried to enlist the change professions to serve as Vaseline to force the wrong changes, such as reorganization number 3 in as many years. Or an employee engagement project in a government bureaucracy. Or implementing a “customer intimacy program” in a organization governed by a dictatorial IT process.

Generally , “Change Management” prepares a deck of 70 slides to explain how any change can be managed, so clearly they are blind to what Schumpeter suggests. On the other hand, professional OD  looks at any change via the lense of  “why won’t this work”. Hence OD’s value-the underlying dynamic!

And when management insists on implementing silly plans  whilst HR wow wows and kowtows to the system, the OD consultant  must stand his/her ground. The ensuing dialogue between what management wants to happen, and the perspective of possible subversion, is the very heart of the OD dialogue. 

Furthermore, the wow wow HR cheer leading and the OD perspective is the source of the tension between the professions.

And once again, there is nothing like the Economist. It is proof positive that there is still a brand of journalism that is non sensationalist.

Follow me @AllonShevat


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Allon  אלון

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5 thoughts on “The best way to look at a system is to learn how to subvert it

  1. Another good one, Allon! Thanks. BTW I was thinking of you last night while watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode in Israel where he visits Jerusalem, Gaza, and other points. The food he sampled looks delicious. Too bad he didn’t contact you to be one of his tour guides.

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