The Art of Change


Erik Schön
Management Matters
Published in
5 min readFeb 13, 2024


How do you handle change? The Art of Change provides timeless answers to this eternal question. It is a modern reading of The Book of Changes/I Ching — a guide for sustainable success in turbulent times. Discover solutions for your current situation by exploring relevant sections and considering how you can apply the change patterns in your context. All parts.

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

The Art of Change is a reading of the classic Book of Changes (I Ching) using transformation, leadership and strategy glasses — seeing it as a practical guide for actions and decisions, consciously leaving out the fortune-telling parts.

It is part of a trilogy — The Art of Change, The Art of Leadership and The Art of Strategy — exploring timeless patterns for sustainable success in turbulent times, helping us to think and act from first principles while being mindful of context.

The Books of Changes has inspired a diverse set of people:

If you use it long enough and continually enough, it will begin to change and shape you as a person.
Philip K. Dick, writer

The only thing that is amazingly true, period.
Bob Dylan, musician, poet and Nobel laureate

The primary source for the pragmatic mysticism of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (The Art of Leadership) and the analytic strategy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War (The Art of Strategy).
Thomas Cleary, writer and literary translator

There is genuine value in relating this ancient text to the dilemmas of the modern business world.
John Minford, sinologist and literary translator

It offers guidance for responding appropriately to shifting life conditions.
Ikujiro Nonaka and Zhichang Zhu, business strategists

The Art of Change is an 8-part series that interprets 64 short sections on how to successfully create and respond to change in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world where the rate of change is increasing daily.

The interpretation gently transforms The Book of Changes — first written down around 1,200 BC in what is now called China and one of the world’s most influential and enigmatic texts — into modern, crisp English.

Through diverse situations and patterns, you will discover new perspectives on people and their behaviours, get actionable advice on handling and creating change strategically and effectively, and, thus, learn how to make a difference.

You will also improve your understanding of China and Chinese ways of transforming, leading and strategising since The Book of Changes is deeply ingrained in Chinese thinking, decision-making and actions, e.g. as part of the civil servant education for over 2,000 years.

Using this Book

Each section includes helpful questions and commentary to complement and clarify the terse, poetic text, turning it into a conversation through the ages. An extensive Glossary is also provided since many Chinese concepts are purposefully abstract and ambiguous.

I have kept the text as simple as possible but not simpler and recommend reading the sections slowly, in small doses, to give time for reflection.

See it as a handy reference where you discover solutions for your current situation by exploring the relevant sections and then considering how you can apply the change patterns in your context.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Pick one or several sections that are relevant to your current situation.
  2. Ponder the patterns in these sections and consider how they could be applied in your context.
  3. Apply the change patterns: behave, act, decide.
  4. Learn by observing the consequences of your behaviours, actions and decisions.
  5. Repeat from step 1.

Summary of the Book

The following is a poetic summary of The Art of Change.

The world moves in cycles:
day follows night, sunshine after rain;
in difficulty lies opportunity;
success hides within failure.

Expecting constant change
means knowledge has limits.
Yet, finding agency to decide and act
through patterns and rituals

Using patterns to see
pitfalls, perspectives, possibilities,
turning failure into success.

Stop, relax and breathe:
reflecting on past, present, future;
assessing carefully, then shaping or adapting.

Harmonising competing conditions
embracing fluidity,

Balancing timely:
patterns for this situation,
suitable actions and decisions.

Developing confidence to
face and create change
with courage, humility, resolve.

Being fit for the future
is being aware and alive
in the unknown.

Change is natural:
following the line of least resistance,
going with the flow,
just like water does

Photo by Landon Parenteau on Unsplash

On Change

Cultures, nations, religions and people are not rocks. They are in constant transformation.
Hans Rosling, physician, academic, public speaker

The game is not better predicting the future, but better adapting to how the present is different from your expectations.

We can drive ourselves crazy with expectation. But by preparing for every eventuality we can think of, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the eventualities we can’t imagine.

There is another way. The team can be perfectly prepared at any moment to go in whatever direction the business or the system demands. By giving up explicit preparation for change, paradoxically they become entirely prepared for any change.

They expect nothing. They can no longer be surprised.

Kent Beck, programmer and creator of XP

There is no one-size fits all solution but rather a dynamic mindset that adapts and evolves. It invites us to embrace change, question our assumptions, and continuously seek improvement.
Jim Highsmith, software engineer and creator of Adaptive Software Development

Human beings are amazingly adaptable. We are just enormously resilient as human beings. So, in many ways human beings already have the essential qualities that our organisations lack.
Gary Hamel, management professor and consultant

We got to change — come together.
James Brown, musician

But how? Let’s explore the eternal wisdom from The Book of Changes in this modern reading in the sections below.

Acclaim for The Art of Change

This is wonderful.
Frank Chiaro

Well articulated.
Stefano Roncoroni

I have read things that I needed to read — right now, in my life. As usual, the I Ching never fails.
Rod Leaverton, strategist

The Art of Change: All Parts

Pick section(s), ponder patterns, change, learn, repeat!

Contents: A summary of all parts
Introduction: Patterns for success

  • Sections 1–8: Turbulence, Flow, Growth, Learning, Waiting, Conflict, Competition, Collaboration
  • Sections 9–16: Nurturing, Mistakes, Balance, Obstruction, Fellowship, Power, Modesty, Excess
  • Sections 17–24: Following, Renewal, Attitude, Observing, Resistance, Image, Division, Cycles
  • Sections 25–32: Flowing, Capabilities, Nourishing, Overload, Danger, Knowledge, Resonance, Perseverance
  • Sections 33–40: Retreating, Strength, Progress, Darkness, Teamwork, Opposition, Difficulty, Removal
  • Sections 41–48: Decline, Surge, Determination, Alliances, Teaming, Rising, Adversity, Energising
  • Sections 49–56: Change, Renewing, Shock, Stillness, Development, Underdog, Success, Unknown
  • Sections 57–64: Influencing, Joy, Dispersal, Restraining, Integrity, Exceeding, Completion, Incomplete

Glossary: Explanation of key terms
Acknowledgements: Standing on the shoulders of giants
Sources: Where to learn more
Other reading formats



Erik Schön
Management Matters

From hacker, software researcher, system engineer to leader, executive, strategizer. Writer: #ArtOfChange #ArtOfLeadership #ArtOfStrategy