How Change Causes Change
How Change Causes Change
Paramaribo, December 28, 2001, Joan Marques, MBA, Doctoral Student
It is only when you return to your initial environment
after having been away for a while, that you realize
how the process of change can change a person’s
complete perspective on almost everything. This is not
only the case with (temporarily) returning to a home
country after relocating to another, but it may just
as well pertain to companies, or even families! It
takes all your personal leadership abilities to
successfully re-identify with the “culture” that used
to be yours, maybe not even that long ago. And in fact
the confusion that oftentimes manifests itself is not
even illogic, for doesn’t this process resemble the
phenomenon of ethnocentrism being cured by exposure to
a different culture? To refresh the reader’s memory:
ethnocentrism could be defined as "thinking [that]
one's own group's ways are superior to others" or
"judging other groups as inferior to one's own. " 
Being re-exposed to your initial culture, then, leads
to a factual culture shock that may drop on your head
even twice as tough, because you start seeing the
shortcomings of what used to be immaculate and maybe
even superior in the perception you so carefully
cherished during your absence. As a matter of fact,
maybe the best way to typify the confusing turmoil in
which you land is “reversed ethnocentrism”. 
Getting yourself in shape to manage this emotional
crisis responsibly requires—before anything else—the
ability to recognize it! The general perception of
various authors, who state that everybody, without
exception, is ethnocentric, can easily lead to the
conclusion that almost certainly everybody also
experiences reversed ethnocentrism when returning to
the initial environment after exposure to a different
one. The feelings of disappointment that we endure
during these moments can be devastating. Now, even if
radicalism may serve excellent as a leadership tool to
keep your company from endlessly, incrementally
innovating, it also has some negative connotations to
it. In the case of reversed ethnocentrism, for
instance, a radical approach can lead to decisions
such as cutting off all ties that used to exist with
the initial culture. The nationalist who lived in
another country can, hence, decide to abandon his/her
home country ineradicably, the staff member who was
once so full of the company-culture can suddenly
decide to resign, and the son or daughter who was
always such a family person can choose to stay away
for at least another ten years.
Judy Neal offers a possible approach that may be
helpful in situations of confusion—because that’s what
it boils down to—namely, asking ourselves under all
circumstances: “1) Who am I? and 2) What is my purpose
in life? ” Although Neal applies these questions
mainly to the concept of spirituality in the
workplace, their scope and importance could very well
be extended to all aspects of life. We just have to
understand that we are subject to change as long as we
are conscious. The changes we experience from day to
day may seem rather small at times, and grappling at
others (think about the effects of terrorist actions),
but change is always there. It never leaves. As
numerous authors may have stated before this article,
change within the society where you live and/or work
may not be as obvious while you’re part of it, but
when you have detached yourself from it for an
extended period of time, that’s when the eye-opening
process kicks in.
The answer we give to the two abovementioned questions
that Neal has posted in her “Reflections on the coming
of the New Year” may very well change drastically over
the years, but they will definitely force us to
regularly get in touch with our inner selves. They
will help us keep track of the changes we go through
and the changed individual we become through those
changes. They will also help us to accept new or old
situations we get (re)confronted with and which we may
not like, due to the changes we have gone through. Not
all change happens as rapidly everywhere. Some
environments just move at a faster pace than others.
It is unfair toward our initial culture to be compared
with the newly experienced one, even though it may
very well be helpful if we are in the position to
gradually introduce some new impulses here and there. 
Bottom line is that the statement, “we change through
the books we read and the people we meet”, is as true
as can be. It’s those books and those people that will
ultimately awaken the urge in us to move away from
being “classic” and dare to be “genuinely original”,
like Tom Peters recently described a good friend . 
And, to dwell a little longer on Peters’ statements,
to become “captivated-obsessed with [your] dreams,
[because] there is no quality [to be] admire[d] more
in a human.” 
So where is this all supposed to lead to? Simple, to
the awareness that has been described time and again
by people from all walks of life: we change
constantly, and change changes us. We move away from
people and things that were once our most beloved. We
grow, and so do they. And unfortunately, we don’t
always grow in the same direction. Sometimes we will
make friends, or create situations and links for life,
but sometimes they will only serve a temporary
purpose. It is impossible to try to hang on to
everyone and everything that once touched us, for
there is only so much time to do whatever we have to
do. Dreaming is not childish. On the contrary! It
takes a hero to dare to dream in a world that almost
forces you to walk in line with millions of others.
And yes, it will drive you in other directions. Yes,
you will loose track of good old friends and places.
But don’t let that keep you from the adventure of your
life. As long as you do it in a responsible way:
Dream! Gamble! Fantasize! Look in different
directions! See the bigger picture and help others to
see it as well! Remember the words of the song called
The Gambler: “You got to know when to hold on, know
when to hold up, know when to walk away, know when to
run…” Try to keep in mind that your change could have
happened faster or slower than the one from the
environment you are confronted with. Try to find the
positive elements in everything. Be one of the
initiators of “the major shift in consciousness that
is taking place in [today’s] world ” (Neal, 2001) and
be inventive by trying to find a way to increase the
“interconnectedness of the human race” (Neal, 2001) in
the most positive way you can. Write, speak, sing,
dance, use your every skill to catch the attention of
your audience in the home country, workplace, or at
the family reunion, and stir within them the change
that changed you! Live one of Mahatma Gandhi’s most
famous quotes: “Be the change you want to see in the
Good luck in 2002!