by Scott Ochander

"Change requires both desire AND direction."

Thirteen years ago, a project at a national laboratory required a new consensus-based research model for change to bring together the masses and inspire a shared vision for the future. That successful project and resulting process innovation was a critical component for the start of Dartlet. For years, we have inspired consensus and change in our client’s organizations and watched them succeed. Through it all, we learned not to fear change but to embrace and inspire it.

There is no doubt that change is perhaps one of the most feared and anxiety ridden concepts in our human society. Many people resist even saying the word. Over the past 20+ years, I have participated in and led hundreds of change projects. Yet, for all the people I’ve encountered who’ve been an active participate in a change process, I can hardly recall anyone who wasn’t better for it. So why do people fear it? Is it because of the unknown? The difficulty of leaving the present state behind? The discomfort that comes from something new? Or something else entirely?

Dartlet as a company is comprised of experts and professionals from widely varied backgrounds and political perspectives. Despite this variety of political perspective within the company, we are in nearly full agreement that the United States voted for change in the last election cycle.  Whether it be the millions who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries or the millions who voted for President Trump on election day, years of stalemate and lack of shared conversation across our nation finally resulted in the desire for change reaching a boiling point.

As a generality, you need both desire and direction for a positive change. In other words, to realize successful change management you need to have the directional clarity to see a different way of being and the stakeholder motivation to move away from the present state. To achieve these conditions within organizations or communities, many leaders will attempt to paint a rosy picture of the future, or scare people into desire. Dartlet believes that truly lasting change only comes from within a community through shared conversation, understanding and consensus. This is a harder, more complex, but infinitely more fruitful route to positive change.

During the last election, the desire for change reached a peak. However, the directional vision for that change was clouded with conflicting ideals, changing storylines, and uncertainty— resulting in a lot of confusion, concern, and divisiveness. I’ve personally watched as my politically divided Facebook friends have stopped talking to one another, instead preferring to trade comments on politically charged stories or rants. The basic concepts of shared conversation have, in many respects, stopped within our society. As with any change without direction, the feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and even anger will continue until there is direction. With direction, people can focus, can stop feeling lost, and start working towards a common goal. Without it, people are left to make up their own individual ideas for the future and dig their heels in further.

It seems to me that the nation’s current state can serve as a critical lesson to us all as we work towards building and empowering positive changes in our communities, on our campuses, and in our lives. The old saying “change for change’s sake” refers to a directionless change, without desire. Change requires both desire AND direction.  Without both, there can be a lot of pain—it might even make people resist any attempt at positive change.

It is through consensus that Dartlet has found a potent formula for inspiring desire and direction. As you seek to build a consensus-based model for positive change in your world:  Inspire shared conversation, foster mutual understanding, and build the consensus that will give your project the motivation and direction it needs for success.