What if our organizational change agents interacted like the players in natural ecosystems so that transformational change was truly widespread, dominant, and self-sustaining?

Change in the natural world occurs similarly to the way change occurs within our organizations. The problem is we don’t always recognize the similarities.

In the natural world, change is a constant process of evolutionary and revolutionary shifts resulting from the interaction of ecosystem players, change agents, as they deal with disturbances across the system. Disturbances to the ecosystem are myriad and spark changes that take root, overcome barriers, and prosper, or shrivel and die depending on the adaptive ability of the change agents.

Changes that prosper and, over time, transform the ecosystem tend to be those that span the boundaries between an intricate web of communities and species, overcome natural barriers, and pass the ultimate test of “survival of the most adaptable.”

Transformational change to the ecosystem is often triggered by an initial disturbance and, as the impact of that change cascades throughout the interconnected ecosystem communities, the knock-on effects take root in unexpected ways. Both the predictable and unpredictable impact of change tends toward balance, sustainability, stability, and resiliency of the whole system. A revolutionary change here leads to an evolutionary change there and, as seemingly isolated shifts gain momentum across the system, the entire habitat undergoes a fundamental transformation that ultimately becomes self-sustaining. Once it takes root, the underlying transformational change goes beyond any of the distinct communities, species, or individual players that interact across the system. In organizations, this occurs when a shift happens in an industry that requires the organization to make rapid adjustments to its business model, strategy, structure, or leadership.

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