“The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
I started writing this blog only five months ago. After 27 postings, I hope my readers have an idea of what to expect. Basically, the blog is geared for experienced change agents who don’t think they have all the answers. It’s for seasoned practitioners who have similar feelings about their profession:
They are highly skilled but are more uncomfortable with how little they know than they are impressed by their accomplishments.
They are more attracted to their remaining questions than their unquestioned answers.
They create value for those they serve, but know deep down there is much more to learn—about transformational change and about providing greater benefits to their clients—and they are committed to exploring these gaps as humble students.
They have much to say, but are eager to be part of, listen to, and be influenced by, a community whose collective wisdom is powerful.
With this as the intended readership profile, I’ve brought forward challenges that are familiar to me, which I think other practitioners can relate to as well. The readership has grown steadily and you’ve told me to keep it up. That has been heartwarming; I really appreciate it.
But There’s Something More
We’ve reached a point in the blog’s development where I’d like to say a bit more about my agenda in writing it. I have another layer of purpose, and, once I tell you about it, we’ll be able to draw additional implications from future postings.
Maybe the best way to introduce this new perspective to the blog is to take a cue from members of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the way they introduce themselves at their meetings. Along with their name, they declare a reminder to themselves and others of what they are confronting in their lives.
So, my version of the AA introduction is…Hi. My name is Daryl Conner and I’m a methodology bigot.
Methodology bigots aren’t just enthusiastic about or devoted to a particular approach to change implementation1—we are all but intolerant of frameworks, nomenclature, and styles of approach other than our own. Of course, we don’t often blatantly express this kind of prejudice within the professional ranks. In fact, most practitioners would consider it politically incorrect to say anything patently derogatory toward techniques and procedures outside their own repertoire. It’s okay to publicly “black list” one or two approaches—or even a couple of well-known authors—but any wholesale brush-off of all that’s available in the field outside your own approach would be thought of as unacceptably intolerant.
For this reason, we methodology bigots are usually quite skilled at camouflaging our aversion to anything but our own way of practicing change facilitation. In reality, however, we are actually quite closed-minded about the value of perspectives that run counter to our own. We give lip service to other approaches, saying they “have their place,” but what we really mean is that we think “their place” is nowhere near where we practice our craft.
For those who think I’m overstating the case or being unnecessarily harsh, I beg to differ, so please read on as I state my case. Yes, I could have used a less provocative term than bigot. Some readers might prefer I say that these practitioners simply demonstrate a strong preference for a specific change framework, or that they are just overly opinionated about their method, or that they are merelydevotees to a specific approach to change. Catering to comfort, however, is not on the menu for this blog.
I want to cut to the chase here because circumventing the real issue with more pleasant, non-confrontive language won’t serve us. Methodology bigotry is a reality in the change facilitation community and it’s time to face it head on.
I am not implying that every professional change agent works from such a narrow view—far from it. Many in our field hold well-deserved preferences without being exclusionists. They may be adamant about the positive impact of their chosen approach or express strong commitment to the views of certain influential thought leaders, but they don’t display the inflexibility of the bigot. Plenty of practitioners have aligned themselves to, and are highly skilled in, a particular approach, yet they remain open to other influences. They are able to embrace both ends of the continuum—fully dedicated to one methodology, yet open to alternative ways of thinking and operating.
Strongly held views alone do not constitute bigotry. This term is reserved for those of us in the change facilitation profession who, beneath our politically correct façade, operate within an isolated, self-reinforcing ideology, missing much of the value we could gain from other thought leaders and methodology camps.
Mythology bigots inhibit their own development, and their arrogance hinders the advancement of our entire craft. Unless we expose ourselves to and truly respect the value that lies within the multitude of change orientations that exist, our field is doomed to live out its existence as a fractionated, war-lord-dominated battle of wills, where egos are more important than serving the organizations and transformations we claim to support.
It’s time we take a different course.
Next: The Signature Pattern of Methodology Bigots
1 Throughout this series, when I refer to “a particular change methodology” or “a specific approach to change,” I mean either a single framework that change agents adhere to or to the several frameworks they often rely on to formulate an integrated way of executing change. I’m speaking to the practitioner’s preferred way of addressing change, whether that is a solitary methodology or a unique combination he or she has forged.