How to Lead a Change Revolution

Christopher Davis
17 min readJan 31, 2022
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

This story began life as a presentation I did over fifteen years ago. It has gone through a few iterations over the years and multiple retellings in classes, conferences, and meetings. It reflects my thinking and experience across a variety of contexts. When it first started, it was about my working introducing technology into the higher education classroom, but even then, it was founded in my work in building coalitions for change on both international and local levels. It draws on my research studying social and organizational change. It concorporates my experience in business and marketing. I think it is a delightful mix of business and social issues.

A change revolution can be something that you launch within your organization or in your community. While we can also talk about change as an individual growth process, the focus here is on changes that span more than one person. Changing oneself is hard enough but introducing change when it requires other people is exponentially harder.

My work on this started in 2000, when I was appointed as Director of Instructional Technology at the Baker College system. My mission was to convince classroom faculty to adopt technology to enhance their teaching. The challenge was how to motivate faculty to voluntarily take on the extra work of using technology. This work followed on projects I had led earlier in my career around marketing new Internet-based applications in the mid-1990s, developing a global information sharing network on the human dimensions of global change, and developing a community health information network.

Over the years I have chosen the label “revolution” to capture the drama and impact of leading change. Change that is not revolutionary is not likely to produce real change. Sometimes change programs produce many warm fuzzies and self-congratulatory pats on the back, but the morning after nothing has really changed. A revolution where people go to the barricades and publicly take a stand is what is needed to produce change. All change has opposition, and if that opposition is not revealed, then there is a better than even chance that the change program is superficial and not revolutionary.

The Change Imperative

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

Christopher Davis

#HigherEd revolutionary with over twenty years experience in higher ed teaching and administration. Opinions and positions are my own.