Friday, November 25, 2011


Three weeks ago, in a large meeting, I made the assertion that all change arises from dissatisfaction of some sort. I gave some examples. In the specific context of wondering if we might change the way we do our small group work at church, my colleagues and I shared that we were dissatisfied with our church's outreach. We wanted to have a conversation (and we have a had a really good one with about 120 people involved) about whether or not our home groups might be the solution to this problem.

In the midst of this I wondered if anyone could think of any examples of change that did not arise from dissatisfaction and I tried to prove them wrong. This too was a fascinating discussion. Most of the examples suggested were too easy to knock down and after a while I stopped bothering, but I did feel the original assertion wasn't tight enough. Some extracts:

Maybe better to say all growth begins with change.

Of course all change begins with dissatisfaction. If we were satisfied why would we change? Why make a mountain out of a truism?

So I posed another question. I said, 'No-one has yet given me an example of change that does not arise out of dissatisfaction - but the dissatisfaction may be about the future.'

I received a number of replies concerning things such as adolescence or plants changing with the seasons. In terms of philosophical posturing they are correct. My axiom is not a catch all for the non-human world. Adolescence is, of course, not a change but a development, a distinction lost on many of my contributors. To some extent this is true of the plant world too but I was not happy yet.

Some more comments:

I fear that you're using 'dissatisfaction' in a catch-all hope that 'maybe if I change this/that I'll see an improvement' might indicate dissatisfaction or it might illustrate anticipation or hope.

Lost you on this Steve, your definition of dissatisfaction and change needed.

Sales Training 101: You cannot sell to anyone who is in a satisfied state. They have no needs and so you cannot supply anything to meet them. The only people to whom you can sell are those who have a problem they need solving (70%) and those who see an opportunity they wish to grasp (30%.) I would argue that both those states show a dissatisfaction with the status quo. What's true for selling and buying is true for the rest of life.

I've never been convinced by the 'needs' based humanistic approach to human activity. I know it's popular in some areas of management/marketing, but my own research suggests that people's activity is generally far to complex to fit with one decision making mode.'ve created dissatisfaction as an umbrella term and can now quite satisfactorily fit any eventuality under it.

Can I ask if using your dissatisfaction motif helps you to act in ways that brings about the change you aspire to? If it does, don't worry about being wrong, instigating and supporting healthy change is surely the goal?

So let's say a few things in response to this. Firstly a big yah boo sucks to anyone who says social networking lacks depth. Over 40 contributions to this discussion and many of a very high quality. Secondly, can we recall for a moment that I only posed a couple of questions. I haven't arrived anywhere yet (I'm about to though).

Thirdly, and finally, I think I would now want to say that no-one will invest time and energy in making a change to their pattern of behaviour unless there is some element of dissatisfaction with the current pattern. This way we exclude those who have unwanted change forced upon them - it was their bosses/leaders who were dissatisfied and made them change. If we want to change together we need to agree on the dissatisfaction we are moving away from. Thus meetings and conversations.

I think this can be summarised as 'All human planned change arises out of dissatisfaction.'


RuthJ said...

I absolutely agree that social networking provides an opportunity for deeply thoughtful discussion among a group of people some of whom may never have met. The dissatisfaction debate was an excellent example of this, and may rightly be termed a conversation.

On the other hand, to term the home groups meetings a conversation is ludicrous. It was a series of presentations from the front by three church leaders, with carefully prepared material including powerpoint presentations and video clips. I grant you that the feedback opportunities turned out in the end to be being taken much more seriously than is usual, but the experience was unavoidably power-heavy.

Come on, guys, let's cut out the New Speak business jargon! It's manipulative.

Anonymous said...

I think Ruth has summed up very well what most people I have talked to think about the so called 'conversations'.
I said after the first meeting that conversations don't happen in a room where all the chairs are in rows facing the front. I was disappointed to see them set out the same way the following weeks. I had hoped for something radically different from most meetings.

RuthJ said...

To be honest, I didn't object particularly to the format of the meetings as such. My objection is to trying to rebrand them as something else. I thought the question time and panel in the third were very well done, but a conversation it was not!

St said...

So what is a conversation? Is it a one-to-one only? Does it stop being a conversation if one party arrives prepared? I have lots of friends who talk more than 50% of the time but I don't deny that my time spent with them is conversation. To be as deliberately unfair with you as you are with me, I think you are both hiding behind arguments about style to avoid enaging with the substance.

RuthJ said...

OOh, 'deliberately unfair'! There's an assertion. I think I may say I have engaged pretty thoroughly with the substance (though not in this comment thread); and not as a dissenting voice.

I certainly don't think a conversation needs to be one-to-one. I do think there needs to be some equality of voice among the participants. It still seems to me that using the word in this context is so inappropriate that it comes across as an attempt to make people think they had more of a voice than they did. There was really no question as to who were the speakers and who the audience.

In fact, say that we had meetings or presentations where considerable attempts were made to consult rather than impose, and I'll agree with you all the way.