A simple way to evolve successfully

Cocoon Pro staff
Sep 16 · 10 min read

This article is part of the How we work section of our Cocoon Pro publication. It is available also in Italian and Spanish.

If you want to know more, or engage your organization with this approach, please get in touch, here: https://cocoon-pro.com/get-in-touch/


Heraclitus believed that change was the only constant in life. 2500 years after him, it is not just clear how fluid and uncertain our world is, but also how exponential, interconnected and non-linear technology made it, especially if compared to our social inability to face it and, even more, to thrive on it.

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Proof the same is happening in the business domain is the number of digital transformation, change management, re-design initiatives each one of our organisations keeps going through without rest and, unfortunately, with failure rates anecdotally as high as 70%.

What we face is a tension between a mounting rate of reshuffling and adjustment due to unresting technological and social progress versus a structural struggle of our companies to intercept, parse and integrate such disruptive signals as the fuel to foster their evolution. A steady and alarming fall in average life expectancy of organisations from 61 years in 1958 to 18 years today is the testimony of how intense the problem is.


The more we need to change the less we have time to make it happen. This is largely due to common traits most transformation programs share:

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Are these traits attuned to the current business reality or are they the perfect recipe for failure?

If we had to name the single most urgent and important ability for organisations in a turbulent scenario like the one we are all immersed into, that would surely be a better aptness to experiment, learn and evolve at a pace that is at least the same of the market. The question is, of course, how to do that.


Whole Scale Change comes from a profoundly distinct view both of the organization and of how change can happen.

Giving up on considering firms just as a complicated combination of parts, roles, processes and tools to instead carefully acknowledge the deep interrelations, hidden dependencies and the humongous multitude of connections, links and overlaps among them, companies start to appear for what they are: living, complex, self-organising systems of human beings.

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With roots that go back to more than 40 years of thinking in adult learning, community building, appreciative inquiry, chaos field theory, systems thinking, action research and socio-technical systems, Whole Scale Change is a robust approach to change that combines small and large scale participatory interventions in order to enable the entire organization to make profound paradigm shifts (strategy, planning, training, process and model redesign, etc.) in a fast, safe, effective, inclusive and sustainable fashion.

In contrast with other large group intervention methods such as Open Space Technology, Future Search and Real Time Strategy Change, primarily aimed at aligning tens or hundreds of individuals around already made strategies, missions and visions, Whole Scale Change is particularly adapt to empower organisations to co-create new complex outcomes such as their own design and restructuring.


By seeing organisations as complex adaptive networks of relationships among human beings, Whole Scale Change aims to overcome the critical failure factor most change efforts encounter, namely the missing ownership and commitment of those who should execute it.

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It does so by adhering to a small but powerful set of inspiring principles:


Whole Scale Change is both a change journey and a change process in support of more successful transformations by uncovering, combining and unleashing the magics in organisations. It takes the system on an action-learning expedition that leverages the power of microcosms, combines multiple realities and generates a real-time paradigm shift towards future actions.

By decomposing this statement bit by bit, we can appreciate how Whole Scale leverages the following ideas and models:

An example of Whole-Scale Change approach is depicted below with its succession of 3 large intervention and high engagement workshops (convergent), supported by 4 intermediate phases of parallel work in small groups (divergent) as to reach at least 15% of the whole system. Each workshop is dedicated to a different topic (people, processes, organisation) as part of a common evolution journey. All the teams, both within the small and large groups, are selected as microcosms of the entire organization. The full program can be planned and conducted in a matter of months to engage a population of thousands of members.

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Working with microcosms, from the team to the entire firm, in a series of refinement loops, Whole Scale Change activates a critical mass of representatives and makes them feel “one-brain and one-heart”, while co-creating the organization future strategy, direction and structures, for powerful change to occur rapidly and sustainably.

By exploring all the interdependent dimensions that characterise the complex challenges we are facing, Whole Scale Change is uniquely positioned to help organisations to:


You can discover that by answering the 5 crucial questions that Paul Tolchinsky, who is part of our team and one of the fathers of Whole-Scale Change, suggests to firms willing to embark on this evolution journey:

These questions can be used as a checklist to evaluate the level of readiness in and resonance of your specific context:

  1. Do you believe your people are the smartest people on the planet?
  2. Do you believe that ownership and commitment only come through people’s engagement at co-creating solutions?
  3. Are you willing to honor the past and the present, to generate the future?
  4. Do you believe that all the pieces are interdependent?
  5. Do you believe you can shift a system without involving a critical mass of it?

What do your answers look like? And what if the sense of urgency and responsibility towards a more pervasive, transformative and inclusive change you perceive is still in need of some preparatory steps before getting acted on?

This same checklist can be the starting point for a generative conversation about the inner beliefs, expectations and values of your unique organizational landscape and their impact on its ability to satisfy the needs of both internal (employees) and external (customers, suppliers, partners, institutions, etc.) stakeholders.


In a world whose speed is only destined to accelerate, inability to consistently energize effective transformation efforts may not just destroy employee commitment but potentially condemn an organization to a premature demise.

Whole-Scale change offers an extensively validated alternative to traditional change management approaches that sees organisations as complex living systems, whose evolution can only be determined by transferring ownership to their constituents with the goal of co-creating strategy, mission / vision, operating models up to organisation design, without missing the critical interdependencies and human constraints required to face complexity.

Both through in-person events and online collaboration tools, the right selection of individuals can offer their energy and wisdom to achieve extraordinary paradigm shifts in very short time-frames with maximum impact and reduced inertia to change.

This article is part of the How we work section of our Cocoon Pro publication. It is available also in Italian and Spanish.

If you want to know more, or engage your organization with this approach, please get in touch, here: https://cocoon-pro.com/get-in-touch/

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