The Transformation of Edinburgh: iPhone

The Transformation of Edinburgh: iPhone

Perhaps your purpose is to go through the halls of suffering, discover your magic, and resurface as a doctor of restoration.

(Deborah Bravant)

There are many overused memes and tropes in the world of organisational change and personal development.

One of them is ‘transformation’.

It is tempting to believe that we can look outwards, reach into living systems and change them. In fact, we are urged to work at scale and attempt some kind of second order change where the rules of the game are rewritten… and call it transformation.

Yet human ‘systems’ have a way of honouring their provenance and working against our simple, egocentric methods.

We call it ‘resistance’.

I’ve been working with a small group focussing on the commitment it takes to promote systemic change and shift. For each of us, rather than transforming something ‘out there’, it seemed that our efforts found new resonance and connection when the inquiry shifted towards restoring something already ‘in here’.

With the move to ‘restoration’ the internal doubts, struggles and resistance we felt started to fall away.

Our shared question became; “How can we recover and restore within us the qualities, experiences and characteristics that we seek in others?”

A question that might prove to be paradoxically transformational.

A few weeks ago, I wandered (wondered?) through Edinburgh and my picture shows that, like every living system, the city is constantly renewing, shifting and changing.

But regardless of the changes, I’ve always loved the essence of the place. Its life and character is a wonder to behold.

The City Council speaks of ‘transformation, but I hope that the cranes avoid transforming Edinburgh into something that it isn’t - and rather restore it as a fabulous expression of what it has always been.


Of course, Arnold Beisser’s ‘Paradoxical Theory of Change’ is ringing in my ears as I write. In brief, Beisser believed that “we change when we attempt to become something we already are, rather than something we are not.” I find it’s a phrase that provokes a whole different slant on our conventional ideas of ‘performance’ and ‘appraisal’.

I’ve been re-reading Peter Block’s ‘Community: The structure of belonging.’ now in 2nd edition. Peter is critical of large-scale ‘transformation’ and notes how members of small groups bring each other to life: “Instead of surrendering our identity for the sake of belonging, we find in the small group a place that can value our uniqueness.”

And remember Margaret Mead’s words; “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

Steve MarshallComment