Don’t be discouraged: keep your eyes wide open

Simon Black –

In Peter Senge’s (1994) work on ‘Systems Thinking’ and change he observes that often things (including behaviour) appear to “grow worse before it grows better”. He suggests that this happens because we start to see underlying issues more clearly. For us, those issues were previously either unmentionable, unnoticed or just not a priority.

This bubbling up of negativity, challenge and expectation can cause despair – we start seeing the dangers of the iceberg lurking below the waterline. Conservation scientists are often accused of seeing the bleak side of things – and maybe this is why. Also, other people might not like a challenge to ‘the way things are done around here’, whether that is how an team has always operated, how local communities do things, or how a government department prioritises its work and budgets. Don’t be discouraged!

Resistance is a measure that things can get better; formerly ‘undiscussable’ problems have simply risen to the surface – things can now change! As Senge notes, taking things forward might mean that an occasional toe will be stepped upon. But keep experimenting, keep building a better understanding of what is needed and keep seeking solutions to make things better.

More from Peter Senge:

Senge P. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation, Doubleday, New York.

Senge, P. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London.