What is Transformation?

Today’s organisations, institutions and businesses face the ongoing challenge of rapidly changing social and market forces. Similarly, communities throughout, are threatened by increasing exclusion, inequality and violence, in spite of escalated efforts to change this. Transforming existing situations, whether in communities, organisations, institutions or businesses, often encounter resistance and fail. Why? What are necessary components of successful transformation? Here are three great thinkers and practitioners of transformative practices that influence our work at Act Out. Augusto Boal was a theatre practitioner, who developed theatre techniques that increase sensory awareness, shift habitual ways of moving and perceiving, energise the body and bring people together. His reconceptualising of the role of the spectator in issue based performance has invited non-actors across the world to step onto the stage and contribute to possible solutions of relevant social problems. For Boal, transformation was possible primarily through moving the spectator of a play/skit/workshop from playing a passive role into an active one. In that active role the participant can deconstruct and examine the nature behind certain unwanted behaviours and actions. They can offer and rehearse alternative possibilities to transform their own existing challenges. Warren Ziegler was referred to as an ‘enspiritor’ and an ‘envisioner’. He worked towards enabling the individuals to fulfil their human potential, whether they were in the corporate world, government agencies or in non-for-profits. For him transformation happens through deep listening, questioning, learning, imaging and intentioning – all skills he taught and employed. Their aim was to allow individuals to step away from their social biography as well as their knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes and faith to be present to receive inner guidance NOW.

For him transformation was ‘a new self-understanding, a fresh sense of who you are and what you are up to’.

Otto Scharmer is a consultant and senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has conducted extensive work with worldwide organisations around leadership and transformation.

He invites participants of his workshops to enter into a dialogue with each other about the issues they want to tackle. But to go beyond the usual polite, disconnected or inauthentic listening; past the tough-talking, debating, competitive, divisive listening; even past the more empathic inquiring listening to a generative listening. This is a listening that enables individuals to ‘operate from the highest future possibility that is emerging’. His work with leading organisational development giant, Peter Senge, centres on assisting leaders in accessing an ‘inner place’ that allows them to recognise the ‘structural habits of attention’ present in their organisation. www.presencing.com

Some emerging common principles in transformation:

  1. The raising of awareness at an individual level that allows awareness at a collective level – awareness about what really is going on
  2. An inability to accept that things remain as they are
  3. Practices/processes that involve connecting with the physical, emotional, creative and spiritual aspect of the human being
  4. Taking ownership in ideating on the possibilities for change
  5. An understanding that the inner and outer experiences in the world reflect the same condition
  6. Thinking changes form, perception of others changes form, attitudes change form
  7. Open leadership and skilled facilitation

Perhaps change can happen when these are missing, but for transformation to happen and be sustained, these are some of the most common elements present in the transformative work of Boal, Ziegler, Scharmer and Senge.