This week I have the honor of being part of a team facilitating a camp for rising high school juniors and seniors. Our camp is titled Theologia and our focus is to invite a group of twenty-five young scholars to consider God and the world through new lenses, with the intention of giving them a greater depth of theological insight as they engage the world. Our theme for the week is shalom. Each day we explore a specific aspect of shalom: shalom and the environment, shalom and poverty, shalom and racial reconciliation, shalom and the soul. As we are nearing the end of our week, I have been impressed with the level of engagement around the topics. The scholars are deeply reflecting on each conversation. They are doing the work to grow into healthy new perspectives and ways of living.
In my observations and dialogue with our scholars I have seen they are doing the work of Robert Quinn’s Deep Change Field Guide. They are spending time receiving content, evaluating it, trying it out, communicating and questioning, critiquing their own assumptions, and making adjustments to their thinking and behavior in incremental ways. They are being given space to do these things and they are encouraged to do so in community and independently. Essentially, they are living Quinn’s thesis of doing the work of deep change in themselves so that they may help others in their deep change.
Quinn recognizes that change begins with self-leadership. “The argument at the heart of my work is that self-change is crucial to leadership. For the organization to become a more adaptive system that is learning, the leader must become a more adaptive system who is learning.” As important and relevant as Quinn’s assessment of change is, it requires a level of internal or external motivation to encourage change within a leader. With our scholars, we are creating a safe space for them to process and find new avenues for leading themselves and others. For most, the need for deep change is great but the fears faced and the disciplines required can be stumbling blocks to growth.
Quinn sites “The King’s Speech” as a reference for deep change in a dramatic depiction of King George VI. The king had a speech impediment, causing him to stammer every time he had to deliver an important message, or any message, to his people. His position required him to be a voice for the people yet he was unable to fulfill his duty without undergoing a long and painful process of change. It is important to note that he did so in community, with his therapist and his wife, and eventually involved the very people he led in his transformation. From the necessity of his role, he was both internally and externally motivated to change, even when he was certain he could not be healed.
Not always are we moved out of painful circumstances to make a great change. At times, such change can come from a conviction, a movement of God, a revelation. But for it to be deep it must be practiced over time with an investment in ourselves before we can deeply influence others. As Quinn mentions, “Deep change is adaptive work. It requires that we learn to do things we do not know how to do.” Change requires risk and may involve failure. Change also causes us to live in tension points that may be uncomfortable. Those are the places of learning and growth.
Quinn also cited the levels of change from Otto Scharmer, which are worth noting and remembering. From easiest to most challenging:
- Re-acting: A challenge confronts us and we try to resolve it.
- Re-structuring: We define current reality and decide to create new structures and processes.
- Re-designing: We recognize other ways of perceiving the challenge and we create new core activities and processes that incorporate our changed perspective.
- Re-framing: We engage in dialogue with the key actors, and the process reveals many of our own deep assumptions. Understanding our assumptions helps us create new thinking and new principles of action.
- Re-generating: We reexamine our purpose and discover where our commitment comes from. We draw strength from understanding why we do what we do.
Reading Quinn’s text continually reminded me of Michael Jackson’s 1987 hit song, ‘Man in the Mirror’. A pop song, Jackson recognized that change had to begin with himself, moving from the internal to the external. His knowledge of the problems in the world compelled him toward active compassion. I am not sure if it is possible (or necessary) to rank Jackson’s level of change. Was it reactive, redesigned, regenerative? All we know is that he has learned enough to know that he needs to make change in his life.
“Learning is the engine of deep change; as we put ourselves into uncertain places, our assumptions change and we grow. We increase our capacity best by being fully challenged. But challenge is not enough. For us to turn uncertainty into personal transformation, we must be supported and encouraged in the process of engagement and learning.
After a full day on the topic of shalom and racial reconciliation, one of our Theologia scholars recognized that they had grown up with racism in their family in some pretty overt ways. As the scholar processed with their leader and peer group, they were convicted to break the cycle. Instead of confronting their family they decided they would live and speak differently, modeling the change God was doing in their life through their actions. For many it would have been easier to just approach their family or talk it through. Yet this scholar realized that the change needed to begin internally. This scholar is choosing to the more complex and regenerative path of deep change. And in so doing they are finding they are ushering in the shalom of God.
 Quinn, Robert. Deep Change Field Guide: A Personal Course to Discovering the Leader Within. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2012, 49.
 Quinn, 39.
 Ibid., 51.
 Ibid., 9.