Never Underestimate The Power Of “Changents”

“One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.  It…makes you think that after all, your favorite notions may be wrong, your firmest beliefs ill-founded… Naturally, therefore, common men hate a new idea, and are disposed more or less to ill-treat the original man who brings it.”  -Walter Bagehot Physics and Politics (taken from Everett M. Rogers Diffusion of Innovation)

Being an agent of change is an everyday business…

It requires keeping one finger on the pulse of the people and one eye on the horizon.  Many consider these agents of change or “changents” as organizational disruptors.  When in fact, very seldom do they look for broad, sweeping changes….in most instances, changents have a tendency to just see a different way forward.  They notice voids and chasms in the current way of doing that can be filled with new and better ways of doing.

Changents see conversations as transformational events, a forum where knowledge, ideas…and the seeds of change are planted.  Where the reality is pushed on towards the vision…

We often have this erroneous idea that a changent is only interested in creating new.  When, in fact, a changent is a much more multidimensional  and dynamic way of being and doing…

Changents are noticers, adopters, creators, subtractors, directors, leaders, followers, momentum builders…

Changents understand that it is not only in creating new…it is about creating movement, direction…building momentum, and filling voids.  It is both addition and subtraction.

As well as creating, it requires engaging in eliminating those obstacles that hinder movement and momentum…of processes and ways of thinking that slow down and even cauterize the forward movement, progress, and progression of an organization.

Changents are not only those early adopters who push forward in an organization to engage and secure new ideas…they know just as well when to slow down and allow new ideas a chance to settle in and percolate.  

Changents are adept in the art of timing…and understanding whether the timing is right or not right to move forward.  Being a changent is as much knowing what to do as it is knowing what not to do…and when.

As Everett M. Rogers states in Diffusion of Innovation“A change agent usually seeks to secure the adoption of new ideas, but he or she may also attempt to slow the diffusion process and prevent the adoption of certain innovations with undesirable effects.”

This is a very important and vital clarification…being a changent isn’t just in driving change, steering the ship…it’s being a vacuum and creating voids that spill the organization forward into new areas and arenas.  As well as, to determine those current organizational structures and processes that need to be removed…that have run their course and bog down rather than energize the environment and the organization.

Changents spend less time pushing and pulling change…rather they become a vacuum that creates voids which are necessary for the organization to fill…

Being a change agent is being an organizational adjuster…what Buckminster Fuller and Stephen Covey would refer to as organizational Trim Tabs.  Trim Tabs are those small rudders on large rudders that create the force that allows the rudder to change the course of the ship or plane.  Which is what a changents ultimately is.  They are the organizational vacuums that create the void of and for change.

They create the energy of notice.  And that energy, that vacuum, has the pull to gain the notice of the whole organization, which creates and enables movement in new directions.

As a Trim Tab…it is important that the pull created both adds and deletes.  Which means that it is not just about guiding the ship, about leading the organization forward…it is also in determining whether to add a change or subtract from the things that are getting in the way of your organization being agile.  Trimming the fat.

A changent is to an organization, as a Trim Tab is to a rudder.  They have the ability to serve as the vacuum that in effect turns the rudder, effectively determining the direction of the organization.

With which I will leave you with the words of Buckminster Fuller…

“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do.  Think of the Queen Mary – the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder.  And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.

It’s like a miniature rudder.  Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around.  Takes almost no effort at all.  So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab.  Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether.  Bit if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.

So I said, call me a Trim Tab.  -Buckminster Fuller (Wikipedia)


3 thoughts on “Never Underestimate The Power Of “Changents”

  1. Continuing to be true to our beliefs as educators and constantly aligning our actions with our vision is critical in the process of becoming agents of change. As we move forward into a new realm of teaching and learning, we must navigate through the murky waters that you describe in previous blog posts and be resilient in our ways.

    As a single subject teacher (PE), there are a number of us on social media striving to be changents by sharing our vision and our practice. As Ken Robinson says, PE and the arts MUST be a part of a balanced broad curriculum. The way that PE has been delivered must change to better address the cognitive, affective, behavioral, social, and emotional needs the younger generation. So, I take your words from above very seriously David as I strive to be a changent in my specialty area. Thanks for this blog post!

  2. It helps for a changent or trim tab to know WHY the change is happening. If the person understands WHY the organization is going in a certain direction and WHY it needs to change this knowledge can be better communicated to the masses. Most importantly, the changent/trim tab can use their leadership skills to developed a following to help move the organization in the new direction.

  3. David, your post really hits home for me. As a new principal to a high school at the start of last year I observed many structures/processes that on first glance I was interested in changing or trimming. However, after asking a lot of questions and getting to understand the implications (positive and negative) of the processes/structures I decided it made better sense to give it more time, more observation. Being a fresh set of eyes at the school has been very beneficial. It has allowed me to ask all kinds of questions, even when in some cases I already figured I knew the answer. What I have realized through my years in education is that no one person is capable of sustaining a change on his/her own. It requires a team to sustain change and to see the change continue on long after the individual or group of people who initiated it. Asking questions, but not questioning, is a critical tool that I think all successful changents use. It is through these probing questions that we uncover answers and more importantly, may trigger some thought and reflection on the part of others. As we know, being a changent is complex. Who, where, when and why one initiates it, will all impact how one goes about it. And depending on our own strengths and skills as changents, each of us will likely go about it slightly differently. I guess that’s why there is no single, prescribed road to change.

    Thanks for such thought-provoking posts!

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