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30 October 2018

Widening the reach of the theories of our lives

Written by
Jennifer Garvey Berger

Changing on the Job will come out in its fourth language in December, the beginning of a movement and the outcome of a labor of love from the translator Hanne Lindblad. Here is a look at my forward to that book (I can’t offer you Hanne’s as it’s written in Danish and I don’t understand it myself!).

I have a new sense of the urgency of these ideas at this moment in history. Since I wrote it, the world has become almost-dizzyingly complex, with crises arising in our climate, in our governments, in our technologies, and in our connection with one another and the fragile planet on which we all rely. In the face of that complexity, our natural human impulse is too often to turn to simplistic thinking, to deny the ramifications of the complexity and its call on us to be different, and to instead turn to blame and rage in our confusion. The theory in the book helps us avoid this reflex and instead use the complexity around us as a catalyst for our individual and collective growth, to make our societies around the world more connected, more compassionate, and more creative as we attempt to solve our most complex challenges.

Denmark has a special place in this story because of its history as an innovator, its experience with complex responses to other terrifying challenges (like the way the Danish Jews were saved during World War II), and as a world leader in its social and governmental policies. As a country that consistently tops the global charts in such things as the “Human Development Index,” Denmark has both great delights and also great responsibilities to lead the rest of the world, not just to have a new set of possibilities, but to understand what it is to be human in a whole different way.

This book is part of that shift in understanding as it offers a theory of what it means to be a growing and changing person, and how to walk the path of our own development. Whether you are a leadership coach, an organisational development professional, or a leader looking to grow yourself or your team, these theories offer both the picture of growth and also the mechanism, the habits of mind you can build into your work and your life. It helps us understand the way we can grow ourselves and support others to grow, which surely is one key to what our world desperately needs.

It is not only the global scale that matters, of course. I am very hopeful these ideas will be a gift to you and your relationships as well. Many good things have come from publishing this book in English, but perhaps the best are the letters I have had from readers who tell me that the book brought them closer to someone from whom they were distanced in the past. They found they listened more deeply, cared more fully, saw the other person more richly than they had before. Is there any more beautiful outcome an author could want? I am excited to see what happens as these ideas open to you and those you care about.

I believe our work into the theories of adult development are profoundly co-constructed journeys. This is particularly true in a translation. There are my ideas and words, translated by Hanne’s deep understanding. But just as importantly there is the sense that you as a reader have of these ideas, the ways they resonate for you or fall flat, and the way you build these ideas anew in your context. I am grateful to you for joining us on this journey, and I look forward to the next chapter we all write together.

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