Homeostasis vs Change

by Jan Yuill

Homeostasis is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as the relatively stable state of equilibrium (or a tendency toward such a state) between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism or group. In other words, organisms (including me, the yellow rosebush at my front door, and my very hairy cat) are constantly seeking equilibrium. This equilibrium is in response to shifting conditions and messages both internally (hey, I’m hungry) and externally (brrr, it’s chilly in here). When any of us is thirsty, we go get a glass of water, or our leaves begin to shrivel up, or we meow loudly. Thirst is uncomfortable and we want to get back to normal.

The more I think about organizations as living entities, the more I think our emphasis on change in recent years has been completely misguided. It seems that the practice of change has been more popular than the outcomes it might have achieved. Change for its own sake — a keeping up with the corporate Jones’, a cutting and pasting of best practices, a treadmill that never stops, a chasing after the wind, busy work. Perhaps we have had it all wrong. Perhaps it is more about seeking, and finding our way back to a balance when things get out of whack.

And we do get whacked these days.