The History and Current Status of Organizational and Systems Change

H. Skipton Leonard

12.1 Historical Foundations

The matter of the impact and process of change has been on the minds of humans from the dawn of civilization. It is thought that the origins of the I Ching, the classic Book of Changes of the ancient Chinese civilization, used by fortune tellers and oracles, can be found as early as 1150 BC1 (Blofeld, 1968) and used by fortune tellers and oracles. The philosophical treatment of change using the I Ching is generally attributed to Confucius and his followers and disciples, beginning around 500 BC (Wilhelm, 1960). The I Ching/Confucian philosophical position on change is that it is constant: “Change: that is the unchangeable” (Wilhelm, 1060, p. 23). In the I Ching/Confucian view, change and ­stability are of one; they are “neither kernel nor husk—heart and mind function together undivided” (Wilhelm, 1960, p. 13). This understanding is expressed in the three ­definitions of “I” in the I Ching: the “easy, the changing, and the constant” (Wilhelm, 1960, p. 15).

At about the same period in the Mediterranean, Heraclitus of Ephesus made parallel statements about the nature of change and stasis, holding that “life was movement that developed through the conflict of opposites” (Wilhelm, 1960, p. 13). In Heraclitus’ view, nothing is permanent except change.2

Despite the apparent similarities between the Chinese and Greek cultural ­viewpoints, there are important and characteristic ...

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