Category Archives: Social Change


Long before Joseph Schumpeter, Buddhists were aware of the impermanence of phenomena, noting that everything seems to appear only to later disappear. They believed that things were empty of permanent form. The very emptiness of things lead to them being full of creative possibility. Buddhists felt that clinging, to the notion of permanency of things or even to the notion of a fixed self, was the source of our suffering. They wanted us to get our ego out of the way of the direct experience of the world. Some felt that happiness was our natural state when not obstructed by ego.

Even though I’m not Buddhist and can’t exactly grasp Buddhism, as a psychiatrist, I see how our ego-centricity gets in the way of our experiencing the life right in front of us. I bring all this up because I am trying to make a case for how profound our desire for permanence is and how it drives us towards simplistic views and away from an anxiety-producing more complex, but more realistic, view of the world.

Shenpa is the word Buddhists use to describe what we experience when this desire for permanence is frustrated. Pema Chodron is a Buddhist monk who (  has eloquently written about shenpa. She said, “Shenpa causes us to feel the fundamental underlying insecurity of human experience that is inherent in a changing, shifting, impermanent, illusory world…as long as we are habituated to want to have ground under our feet.”

According to Buddhists, a funny thing is said to happen when you renounce clinging to the security of things being permanent– you let go of holding back.  You’re like the father who runs into traffic to save his child from being hit by a car, and forgets himself. It would be interesting if we could all forget ourselves, figuratively run out in the street, and work together to save our world.

Creative Destruction

The last post talked about engineering change as though it were difficult to bring about but uniformly a good thing. In this post, I would like to talk about change as if it were a force with a life of its own and often collateral damage. It can be a source of both hope and suffering.

Joseph Schumpeter, said by Wikipedia to be an Austrian American economist, used the term creative destruction to describe the “process of industrial mutation” which is always changing the current economic structure to create a new one. We have all seen that one man’s progress is another man’s joblessness. It is also not news that the pace of creative destruction is exponentially faster because of the speed of communication of discovery, the number of players in this global economy, the technological improvements in the tools used to make discovery, and the use of artificial intelligence.

When you cannot feed your kids because you have lost your job in an outdated company, it is hard to embrace creative destruction. It becomes easier to embrace philosophies that endorse a belief that things must be a certain way and not change.

How has creative destruction affected you? Are you surviving economic Darwinism?

Mike Rutherford’s Equation for Change

Improving the human condition requires people change.

Someone once said that we break New Year’s resolutions because we have an even deeper unconscious resolution not to let anyone tell us what to do, not even ourselves.

Mike Rutherford has discussed how to overcome a group’s resistance to change, even if that change represents an improvement. ( Rutherford Learning Group

I was lucky enough to hear Mike talk to a group of educational leaders several years ago about his equation for change.   As I remember it, his equation is D+ CV+SFS>R= C.  D = Dissatisfaction, CV=Compelling Vision, SFS= Successful First Steps, greater than R=Resistance, equals C=Change.

He tells educators that they first need to help their group become aware of the many ways their current practices are not working. He is quick to point out that dissatisfaction alone does not lead to change.

The leader must help the group develop a compelling vision of how things could be different. The leader sparks the imagination of the members to see, smell, and taste what the improvement would be like. The members need to be able to see themselves incorporating the change.

The energy from the dissatisfaction and the compelling vision are still not enough. The leader needs to help the group implement the first small steps of the new practice so their initial experience is one of success.  Providing this guidance requires persistence and encouragement. It is essential, if the momentum of change is to overcome the resistance and sustainable change is to occur.

As a psychiatrist trying to help individuals make healthy changes, I have discovered that people do not give up their use of denial until they feel strong enough to do something about the problem they would have to see clearly if their denial broke.

When I think about political leaders getting out among their constituents and listening to their needs and continually encouraging them to believe in themselves, I see they are building the foundation for confronting constituents denial about how bad the situation is. The politicians are creating connection, acceptance, and confidence.

As the leader works with the group in developing the compelling vision and the first successful steps, they are helping the group make the change their own. When W. Edwards Deming helped post-WWII Japanese industries thrive, he had companies develop policies that encouraged workers to offer their own new ideas and take ownership in the production process.

How do you see Rutherford’s equation for change applying to your group and your efforts to help your fellow humans?