our thoughts

Personal Approaches to Change I : Linear Change
17 February 2014

Understanding the nature of personal learning and change is critical for leaders who wish to make a real difference in their organisations. Personal change – changing aspects of the self – can be considered to be either linear or emergent in nature. This post describes the linear approach to change. 

Linear Change

This approach describes where a deliberate change results from a set of conscious, reasoned steps and actions. The linear approach is based on the assumption that a person can change aspects of themselves by doing something different.

In the field of personal development, linear change often manifests itself as a series of steps directed around achieving a specific goal. For example: if someone wanted to learn a new skill such as presenting skills they might follow the steps:

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  • Identify what good presenting looks like (GOAL)
  • Identify what the current level of skill is (REALITY)
  • Engage in training on tools and techniques to improve skill and engage in opportunities to practice the new skill (CHANGE)
  • Gather feedback on how others observe the activity (FEEDBACK)
  • Engage in additional training / opportunities to close the ‘gap’ between the current and aspirational skill level (CHANGE)

The linear change approach is based on the assumption that there are direct cause and effect relationships between an individual’s actions and the outcomes they achieve. This model relies on the individual focusing their energy and attention on what they want to change into.

Characteristics of linear change

Linear change can be characterised in the following ways

  • about doing something different
  • about taking action
  • change is directed towards an aspirational goal
  • change is focused on the future
  • change is viewed as a stepwise process
  • feedback is used to gain information about how the change is progressing

Many organisations view the linear change approach as the only model for personal and professional development. In our experience, the linear approach is valid for some personal development endeavours such as acquiring new knowledge or simple skills.

In the next post, we will consider a powerful alternative to linear change – the emergent approach to personal change.

(Reference: This post was originally created by Jason Harrison and Simon Cavicchia in 2012 to support participants on a leadership development programme.)



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