Several conversations this week have been about ‘managing resistance to change’.

Perfectly reasonable” I hear you say “It’s a real problem, this ‘getting people to change”. I’m just wondering, though: might this not be a weirdly old-fashioned way to think about your people, your business, and about how things happen? (I’ve even written a couple of wee books about overcoming team resistance to change and don’t wish to be weird or old fashioned). But there’s something to pursue here; in a spirit of genuine curiosity.

It was stumbling across this little limerick again that got me thinking:

“There was a young man who said, ‘God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the Quad.’ “


“Dear Sir:
Your astonishment’s odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by
Yours faithfully,

It was Bishop Berkeley’s ‘Veil of Perception’ that sparked the limerick. The Bish was troubled by contemporary thinking about how the world is perceived, to what degree representational theories (then current in the early 18th century) could be trusted, and why “God” was becoming more and more marginalised by the ascendant scientific community.


His theory is odd yet beautifully ingenious.

He answered all the philosophical puzzles bound up with perception by suggesting that our material world is made up of objects that…are just our sensory experiences.  If we cannot sense them, they are not there. If not perceived, they do not exist. And the reason that parts of the world are not constantly doing the hokey cokey into existence, is that there is God’s eye maintaining them.

After yet another ‘we must find a way to make them change’ conversation I realized how like Bishop Berkeley this wish is. As if these people who will not change, like the world around us as BB conceives it, only leap into life when the observer, the leader, senses them.

As if your ideas, as a leader, about change are more real than they are. As if those people that you are so determined to foist change upon have no existence when you are unaware of them…no independent needs, ambitions, dreams, objectives, concerns.

Isn’t it rather odd to expect them to just fall in with your grand change designs?

We smile at the ‘veil of perception’ theory nowadays.

Yet aren’t many ‘Leaders of Change’ still unconsciously living it?

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