Thursday, July 28, 2011

Changing What's Normal means we sometimes have to fight to return things to 'normal'

My good friend Ian Berry has recently released his fourth book Changing What's Normal which contains 58 insights for action - things that each of us can do to change what has become 'normal'.

The challenge with 'normal' is that too many of us accept standards and behaviours that should not be accepted. Fortunately not everyone accepts what has become 'normal'.

Recently a small group of Israeli women, at great risk to themselves smuggled a small group of Palestinian women from the occupied West Bank to have a day at the beach and a play in the waves. So this simple activity was, most likely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The majority of the Palestinian women had never visited a beach in their lives. Where they live is land locked and they are not allowed into the part of Israel where the beach is located. These women are not allowed to enter this part of Israel because they are Palestinian. Full stop.

When asked why they were prepared to take such significant risks the Israeli women said, "''What we are doing here will not change the situation,...But it is one more activity to oppose the occupation. One day in the future, people will ask, like they did of the Germans, 'Did you know?' And I will be able to say, 'I knew. And I acted.'''

This sentence moved me. Despite the apparent futility of their act, these Israeli women, at least for one day, took action to change what was normal. No matter what happens the experience of playing at the beach can never be taken away from the Palestinian women. The Israeli women changed what was normal.

Change often occurs one person at a time. Usually it takes courage from one person to start to change what has become 'normal'.
What are the 'normal activities' in your organisation that you accept, even though deep down you know that they shouldn't be accepted? If you see yourself as courageous, do you have the courage to act?
I know that when the professional doctoral program in which I was enrolled was unceremoniously cancelled without any of the 40 students having been consulted, I wrote a letter to the Vice Chancellor of the university despite that university also being a client of mine. I never received a formal response. So I didn't change anything, but at least I tried.

Sometimes changing what's normal is like that. The question isn't necessarily did you succeed (not in the short term anyway) the question is, 'Did you try to change what's normal?'
Of course the more of us who try to change what's become normal, the more of success will be achieved.
If you would like to know more about this topic I urge you to read Ian's book Changing What's Normal.

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