Research Archive

Managing Change in a World of Excessive Change: Counterbalancing Creative Destruction and Creative Recombination

Publication type: Web-only article

Research Archive Topic: Organizations


Almost any book, article, course, or consulting advice about how to manage organizational change today will tell you that change is good and that more change is better. Advocates of revolutionary change prescribe change that destroys, in one short burst, all the past structures of an organization. The stated goal is to create organizations afresh, freed from the cold grip of the past. Advocates of evolutionary change prefer a kinder, gentler form of creative destruction, a slower, more gradual, series of smaller changes that incrementally destroy existing practices and replace them, progressively, with newly created ones. Still other students of change recommend both evolution and revolution, in alternation, in which paradigm-busting bursts of revolutionary creative destruction are followed by periods of evolutionary adjustments, which way to another revolutionary outburst. Many of the CEOs and executives I work with agree wholeheartedly that the pain of continuous disruptive change has become a serious problem in their firm. This article outlines a much less painful approach to change - whether it is evolutionary or revolutionary. It is an approach that makes it possible to manage change in a less disruptive fashion in order to achieve "sustainable change" - a series of changes that leaders can execute without the excessive disruption and pain that erodes employees' and organizations' capacities to make still more changes, at equal or lower cost, and with equal or greater success.
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Abrahamson, Eric. "Managing Change in a World of Excessive Change: Counterbalancing Creative Destruction and Creative Recombination." Ivey Business Journal, 68, no. 3 (2004).

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