It shifts profoundly how you think about leadership and change. If you use a machine lens, you get leaders who are trying to drive change through formal change programs. If you use a living-systems lens, you get leaders who approach change as if they were growing something, rather than just “changing” something. Even on a large scale, nature doesn’t change things mechanically: You don’t just pull out the old and replace it with the new. Something new grows, and it eventually supplants the old.
You see the same thing at the level of behaviors: If new behaviors are more effective than old behaviors, then the new behaviors win out. That insight gives us a doorway into a different way to think about how enterprises might change: What if we thought of organizational change as the interplay among the various forces that are involved in growing something new?
Looking at nature, we see that nothing that grows starts large; it always starts small. No one is “in charge,” making the growth occur. Instead, growth occurs as a result of the interplay of diverse forces. And these forces fall into two broad categories: self-reinforcing processes, which generate growth, and limiting processes, which can impede growth or stop it altogether. The pattern of growth that occurs unfolds from the interplay of these two types of forces.
– Peter Senge