Friday, 21 August 2015

What does magic have to do with change management?

Last Monday, I went on a five-hour hike with my brother-in-law, three of his high school teacher colleagues, and my son, Sam. Our goal was to retrace a path that Samuel de Champlain (a founding father of Canada) had walked 400 years ago to the day.

As you might expect, my teacher comrades were passionate about learning and eager to exchange ideas on how to become better educators. Throughout the day, there were many exchanges about curriculum being taught in the fall, resources being used and learning techniques being employed.

Tim shared his interest in using magic as a learning aid. He told a story of going to a magic shop to learn how he could integrate magic into his lesson plans. An anticipated 15-minute visit turned into a 5-hour conversation with magicians about the parallels between their professions.

The similarities between learning and magic are compelling: they require engagement and attention to work; demonstration creates interest in how to do something; and mystery promotes debate and learning. Teachers and magicians have similar roles with one focusing on learning and the other on entertainment.

As we continued down our 400 year old path, I thought about extending the learning/magic comparison to change management. Since learning new mindsets, actions and behaviours is how people adopt change, there must also be connections between change management and magic. 

Here are the ones I identified:

Magicians and Change Leaders create wonder
Magicians create wonder about the illusions they create. Change leaders create wonder about the better future they describe. Both may seem impossible without the belief and skill of the creators. Wonder is created through showmanship, the ability to capture attention and create the desire to hear more.

Magicians and Change Leaders know their audiences
Magicians are highly observant of where people focus their attention. Change leaders know what people care about and the concerns they may have with a change. Magicians use their knowledge to guide their audience to experience the benefits of their illusion. Change Leaders use their knowledge to guide their audience to experience the benefits of the change.

Magicians and Change Leaders use a step-by-step approach
Magicians follow a sequenced set of steps that sets up and executes their trick. Change Leaders use a stepped approach to plan and implement their change. Both consistently follow appropriate steps to be successful.

Magicians and Change Leaders are confident in their ability to deliver outcomes
I have never seen an effective Magician or Change Leader who is self-conscious and uncertain about his or her ability to deliver on desired outcomes. If they don't have confidence in themselves then people won't either. Lack of confidence directs people to their weaknesses instead of their strengths.

Magic has a lot to do with change management. I asked Tim about his biggest insight from his conversation in the magic shop. One magician said, "Whether you are a teacher or a magician, you are the magic." The performance of the role delivers the outcome. I think the same is true about Change Leaders.


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