Change Management at Knowmads


Change is not an action we have to take or something to strive for, or even to defend ourselves from. Change is simply a reality that is to be acknowledged and that we have the opportunity to work with.

We change constantly, as people, as organizations, as societies and ecosystems. It happens gradually, so often we are not aware of the minimal changes that happen to us from day to day. Therefore we sometimes find ourselves with outdated strategies and behaviours, realizing that our set of habits are remnants of the past. That’s where a change process comes in that is often painful and uncomfortable, as well for individuals as for organizations as a whole.

We are challenged to look honestly at ourselves, the current situation and the future, and choose. What are ways of behaviour that will serve me, that will serve us in the future? What holds me backfrom a situation? What are patterns that we keep, out of old and out-dated beliefs?

In our society we tend towards mechanical processes. Factories produce the same items in masses, schools educate thousand children with one curriculum, medicine compares our body to a machine whose parts you can exchange when they are used up.

Equally, we tend to organize our lifes and our organizations in this way. What has worked yesterday, will work again tomorrow. Work is a controllable and measurable process. A determined input goes through it, comes out as a determined output.

What we forget in this, work is done by human beings and its output is consumed by human beings who are subject to change.

Should human beings change (as for example happens in the last and next decades through the internet) and the work doesn’t, it becomes disaligned. Change-averse strategies then are control and punishment.

Businesses these days are challenged with the introduction of “Generation Y” in the workforce, a generation of people with very different expectations and needs than the generations before. More freedom, more flexibility, more personal realization are among the requests made by this generation.

If the structure of an established company does not allow change and adaptation, the needs and requests of this new generation may well not be fulfilled. The company will try to reach the same results through control and punishment but will count with a frustrated workforce.

Similarly, should the needs of the consumers change, but the flexibility of companies does not allow for quick adaption, there will be a disalignment. If books and music can be downloaded for free in the internet, selling physical CDs and books is likely to not make the same sales as it did before. Employing control and punishment might ensure sales on the short run, but eventually a radical change will need to happen.

At Knowmads Business School Spain we educate changemakers. This means for us, human beings and leaders who inspire change, who are aware of the changes happening within and around them and are able to adapt themselves and their organizations.

For us it is about working with complexity and chaos.

Usually education teaches ‘the right way’ of doing something. Observe and repeat. Within the Cynefin framework of Dave Snowden, this approach is called “Obvious” or “Simple”. The area of life where we are able to apply best practices. There is a proven way and it is convenient to follow this way. Even if the situation becomes what Snowden calls “Complicated”, there are good practices to follow, even though you might need an expert opinion and analysis to make the best decision.

We educate our students mainly in the areas of “Complex” and “Chaotic”. There is no proven way to deal with a complex or chaotic situation and no way to know beforehand that any approach will lead us to the solution. In complexity it is about testing out, sensing the reactions and acting accordingly, working with emergent practice. In a chaotic situation we are in crisis and have to act quickly, though there is no way to know what is the right thing to do. We discover novel practice here, improvising completely.

How to educate human beings and business leaders that can navigate chaos and complexity? By facing the students with it and supporting them in reading the map. Knowmads is an education without a fix curriculum, exams or diploma. Nobody will tell students they are on the right or wrong path. And students have to design their own education.

Knowmads as a school supports the students in connecting with who they are, where they come from and where they want to go to. We ask questions “Who are you? What world do you want to live in? How are you going to contribute to this world?” and let our students find their own answers.

We support community and sharing between our students, we offer tools and methods that support personal growth and self-connection, so they can choose for themselves the path to take through the complexity and chaos of life.

If an organization or person is faced with a situation that calls for change, if we are looking at ourselves honestly and ask ourselves what are the out-dated patterns and beliefs we are carrying with us, if we don’t know what the future will look like, we have to let go of the search for the ‘right’ way. Innovation happens when we stop reproducing the past and walk into the open.

What we have to navigate in this area, as organizations and human beings, is what might be called the heart. What is the purpose of our existence? What is the vision of our life? What is the vision of the world we want to live in? What is the work we are here to do?

When the world changes, consumers change, workers change, but essential humanness remains. To manage change, humanize yourself and your work.