I keep running into this idea of technical versus adaptive change. In recent weeks, several organizations have grappled with a tendency to engage in more comfortable technical change, rather than the more needed adaptive change.
Always looking for the easier way, I use the following images to explain the difference, using the simplest and most graphic terms I know:
THE SCENARIO …
You are in an airplane that you have flown for many miles and hours. You know the plane well and trust it to get you safely to your destination.
Unfortunately, you have just noticed that the plane is on fire.
TECHNICAL CHANGE …
You have a parachute, but you are not sure if it will work or not, so you try to extinguish the fire, using a variety of materials and tools. After several unsuccessful attempts, you decide to ignore the fire, while hoping it will go out by itself.
You spend much energy scanning the sky, hoping to catch sight of another airplane that will fly alongside and keep your plane in the air or offer a safe and familiar landing-place if you dare to jump the short distance to it.
TECHNICAL AND ADAPTIVE CHANGE …
You decide to trust the parachute and prepare yourself psychologically, emotionally, and physically to move into the sky. After a moment of utter panic, you pull the ripcord and the chute opens.
As you slowly adjust to this new environment, you use the controls on the parachute and your own body weight to reposition yourself to land safely on the ground in the most advantageous spot, ideally avoiding any additional dangers.
You immediately begin to plan to buy another airplane, hopefully one with better safety features.
ADAPTIVE CHANGE …
You jump out of the plane, release the parachute, and learn to fly.
Well, that’s my admittedly simplistic take on this very useful way to look at how we respond to the need to change.
WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS?
Ron Heifetz is considered the “father” of this theory and he provides a much more detailed and professional description of the three levels of change. I strongly recommend you become familiar with the ideas behind the difference between technical and adaptive change.
AFTER ALL, YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU MIGHT NOTICE THAT YOUR PLANE IS ON FIRE
Burning brightly and trying to learn how to fly in the Heartland ….