There are two kinds of change, technical and adaptive, and you need to solve for the right one. Tamsen is working on a book about the Red Thread, and it’s been hard to get that change to happen. Michael Bungay Stanier’s advice was that she was probably solving for the wrong kind of change.
Technical change is change that happens when you acquire new knowledge. Adaptive change, on the other hand, is what happens when you have the things you think you need, but can’t seem to just do the thing.
We walk through a process of how you can look at what’s going on in your life and what might be in the way of making the change you want to make. That means looking at what you’re doing and not doing to support that change, and what you’re doing instead of making it happen. What do those activities reveal a deeper commitment to? What is the worst case scenario you’re afraid might happen?
How we see the world drives what we do, so if you’re trying what you do you have to change what you see.
- Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization by Lisa Laskow Lahey and Michael Kegan
- Box of Crayons – Michael Bungay Stanier
- How to Use “Old” Ways of Thinking to Find New Ways Through Difficult Times – EP052
– One of the reasons why we put our ideas together is because we want to make real change happen. But what happens when you’re the one that wants the change and it’s not happening? Well, it turns out we may be solving for the wrong kind of change. That’s what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread. I’m your host Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com.
This week’s episode was really personal, frankly. Because I was in that situation and I’m still kind of in it, working my way through it where I wanted to do a thing, I wasn’t doing the thing and I kept asking everybody else like how do I do the thing? Well, thankfully I asked my friend and former client Michael Bungay Stanier that question. I said, “How do I write this book about the Red Thread that people are asking me for?” I said, “I feel like “I’ve asked everybody. I’ve read all the things and I’m still not doing it so what’s going on?”
Now, Michael knows a fair amount about all of this because he’s the author of The Coaching Habit, which has now sold over half a million copies. Well, what he said next blew my mind. “Oh, well you’re probably solving for the wrong kind of change.”
I was like, “What do you mean the wrong kind of change? Change is change.”
He’s like, “No, no, no there’s two kinds of change. There’s technical change and adaptive change.” And technical change, as he explained to me was change that happens because you’ve acquired new knowledge. I don’t know how to knit, now I know how to knit. Or, I want to be able to put videos on Instagram and then I learn what the steps are and now I can do that.
But adaptive change is what happens when you say, “I want to go on Instagram. I understand all the mechanics of doing it. But I can’t make myself,” as my other friend Brian Fenzl would say, “press the damn button.”
What’s going on there? And that’s exactly what was happening with me and this book. Now, the work of this adaptive change, technical change and a process that Michael worked me through was something that was developed by Lisa Lahey and Robert Kegan. It’s from their research but also that’s in their book called The Immunity to Change. The process was really fascinating to me because it’s about understanding. Not what, from a technical standpoint, is missing with what’s going on behind the change. Instead, it’s focused on what are, in fact, the arrangements of beliefs and goals and framings of problems and truths that are getting in the way.
Now, the process that Michael walked me through was pretty simple. It said, “Well, what is the thing that you want to do?” And you kind of start there.
I said, “Well, I want to write a book.” That’s the thing that I want to do. And the second step, now, these questions get much harder. It’s not because you don’t know the answers to these questions. It’s because you don’t want to say the answers to these questions out loud.
The second step is to say to yourself “Well, what am I doing that’s supporting this?” But more importantly, and Michael was really emphasizing this, what are the things that you are not doing instead of doing the thing? So, either what are the distracting behaviors or the other activities that you’re doing instead of the thing that you want?
So, what was I doing instead of writing a book? I could clearly say I keep researching it, but I had gotten to a point of what else could I possibly learn about my own idea or about publishing a book that’s keeping me from writing it? Nothing.
And then there’s also kind of what are you not doing. And I was like, “Okay, well I’m not making the time. I’m not setting it aside. I’m not even putting it on my weekly to-do list, which is how I get everything else done.”
So, after first identifying what is the thing you want to do and then second, what are you doing or not doing actually instead of that thing. The next question is what do those activities reveal a deeper commitment to?
Now, this was something that immediately resonated for me. Because I often would say, particularly to my Weight Watchers members, if you’re not doing the thing you want it’s because there’s something else you want more. You may say I want to lose weight, you may say you want to write a book, but you may actually want the coping mechanism that comes from eating.
That was certainly the true for me in the midst of my panic disorder. I’ve talked about this on Find the Red Thread before because it was much more I wanted the comfort of a coping mechanism that I knew more than I wanted to get past it. But once I could recognize that, this is the key, then I could start to change.
What I was figuring out that I wanted more with the book was a lot of the same thing. I wanted the safety of not having my idea questioned, not having me questioned. Not even bringing out, in certain cases, my deep, dark childhood stuff about like who was the writer in the family. All sorts of stuff. Like I said, these questions, these questions are simple, answers are hard.
And the final piece, and this is what Michael called “calamities,” is to really think through and to answer that question for yourself of what if. Let’s say you’ve got this commitment to not having your idea questioned, which is the case for me. What is the worst case scenario that you are unconsciously spinning in your head that you think is going to happen?
In this case, the worst case scenario was that somebody would say that everything’s crap. And this whole business that I’ve built on it would just crumble. And I’d be bankrupt and I wasted three years in all the effort.
What was fascinating, even just saying it out loud can reveal that that’s not helpful thinking for you or for anybody else. But the most important thing going through this whole process did was it showed me that it was actually a different way of approaching the same pieces of the Red Thread that we talk about all the time. I could see the calamity that came from those competing wants or the competing commitments was helping understand how I was looking at the situation.
I was looking at this as a situation of testing my idea rather than codifying my idea. That’s a problem of perspective. Because as long as it was setup as a test then there’s pass or fail. But if it’s codifying my idea, then it’s putting it in a position that I can help other people.
Now, once I’ve got that new Problem perspective then I can start to search for the Truth that makes it impossible for me to keep looking at it as a test. The Truth is the thing that people continued to say to me. It’s that they want, they need to have me in their pocket and that’s the role I want to play for people.
I want, I believe that people have all the resources they need and I want this book to be like having that. Or having me kind of sitting on your shoulder figuring this out along with you. That’s the kind of person that I want to be and I’d to think that I am.
So this process of figuring out change, whether it’s for yourself or somebody else. Well, that first thing we have to understand is whether or not we’re dealing with something that’s a technical change. Because that’s information. If they’ve got all the information to make the technical change we have to look deeper at that adaptive change.
That’s when you’re going to start to either follow that process that Lahey and Kegan laid out. Or you could also use the pieces of the Red Thread to codify and clarify it. Then you start to swap out the pieces until the course of that story in your head makes sense—it’s different.
Within a week I was having conversations with book agents. Writing out the proposal. I started to put a draft table of contents together. It let me really understand what was going on deep down inside by using those fundamental pieces all of us operate with. How we see the world because, as we’ve talked about before, how we see drives what we do.
Which means if you’re trying to change what you do you have to change how you see. And hopefully, either the Lahey Kegan process, or the Red Thread can help you do just that. Whether for you or for someone else.
That’s this week’s episode of Find the Red Thread. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. If you enjoyed this episode, do me a favor Like, subscribe, or share it. Or all three. And until next time.