Thirty-four School for Change Agents joined us for our first EdgeTalks. Our guest speaker was Carmen Medina, a 32-year veteran of the Intelligence Community in the United States and the author of Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within. Carmen shared her reflections on how to take your first step as a change agent, and how to break the ice in organisations that have been doing the same thing for too long.

This Edge Talk follows on from the School for Change Agents  Module One: ‘Change Starts with Me – how to be an effective change agent’ presented by Helen Bevan on Thursday 15th February.

So what does it mean to take your first step as a change agent? We all know that the first steps can be the hardest and it take confidence and a real passion to want to make a difference. Carmen talked about the importance of preparing soil for new growth; if you plant a seed into cold soil, it will not thrive – you have to first create the right conditions.

We were encouraged to ‘think about what activities might you engage in to break the hard soil in an organization so that it is ready to consider new ideas?  and to ‘think of actions that would alter the “temperature”, change the conversation, and/or lead to more engagement? These can be difficult questions to answer authentically when you are at the front line and not used to instigating change conversations. 

We all have experienced times when we feel that the best ideas are not expected to come from anywhere else in the organisation other than the top of the hierarchy. Themes that emerged from the break out session were that sometimes small changes can make a big difference, trust, honesty, strong relationships and shared purpose were key.

The EdgeTalks School Edition is all about the practical tactics and strategies that support change activists to be more effective and to have a voice on the improvements they would like to lead on. Let’s be honest we all have stories to tell of when we have not got it quite right. Carmen advised change agents to think about the next opportunity to present your change ideas and what you could do differently to get a better result. Here are a few strategies mentioned that resonated with School Change Agents.

Think about how you select the change idea that you go for and develop our own criteria for which one to go for. It is important not to get strategy fatigue. Carmen asked how many ideas in one year could the system tolerate? There is a process to picking the best change idea and this involves asking others and ‘editing yourself’.  Ask the question, ‘I know you don't like my idea but what part of the proposal do you dislike the least. On the other hand you could ask – ‘I know you love my idea but what part of my proposal do you love the least?’ These are intentionally disruptive question for change activitist, however they are great for sense checking and ‘breaking the ground’ as Carmen puts it.

The next Edge Talks will be held on Tuesday 27 February at 7pm (UK time): Transformation Through Trauma and Choice, presented by Nigel Millar about the response to the 2010 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

‘The Power to Make a Difference’, Module 2 of the School for Change Agents was presented by Helen Bevan on Thursday 22 February.

We hope you can join us for Module 3 of The School for Change Agents - Being Resilient and Dealing with Resistance to Change - Thursday 1 March, at 3pm (UK time).