Martin Grandjean [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

I have been following Esther Derby with interest for years. I find her wise counsel refreshing and I admire her ability to connect deeply with attendees at conferences and training sessions. You can imagine my excitement upon finding her new book 7 Rules for Positive, Productive Change in my mailbox!

I sat down that evening and applied my customary approach to getting the lay of the land: starting with the index and moving backward to the table of contents. I had one major problem: I kept getting caught on helpful diagrams and interesting anecdotes. Still, I managed to charter a line of inquiry that led me to deep-dive in several parts of the book: networks of relationships in organizations and how they influence the success of change. I didn’t realize how long I’d been at reading up on Rule 4 until I looked up to see it was past midnight!

I love the idea of change by attraction. Change that people want to be part of is the kind of change I want to be an agent of. As I’ve previously written, I have sometimes seen an attitude of “not invented here” that corresponds to the “It won’t work here” argument that Esther’s approach debunks. Experimentation within the walls produces examples of what can work in this context.

I agree with a heuristic approach to figuring things out, so I wondered about the “rules” part of this book’s title. Happily, Esther recognizes that these rules are for “learning and problem-solving, especially when a bit of trial and error is involved… when there isn’t an obvious path.” Accordingly, I found helpful heuristics to guide my questioning when trying to understand how to help others with change.

In particular, I’ve become quite curious about the informal networks that quickly spread ideas, the people “whose opinions are trusted and respected and whom people go to for advice.” I couldn’t help geeking out about the graph theory aspects of the organizational network analysis (ONA), but strategies to “reshape the network to make it more useful both for sharing information about the teams and for sharing ideas and expertise” really got my attention. So I ordered a spare copy of this book to share with my local network.

I’m already thinking up different experiments that I might try to increase information sharing and connectedness of communities, both at work and among professional contacts. Now that my initial investigation has been fruitful, I’ve switched to working my way methodically through each page of the 7 Rules for Change and it’s helping me to sort out and prioritize those potential interventions. Providing more serendipity and more informal opportunities to connect with each other matters to me – and I’m so glad to have Esther’s insights to help guide my exploration. As she says, “Heuristics point a way, and methods and models guide action.”