Immunity to Change Review

I'm working on my masters in Strategic Leadership and recently read a book titled Immunity to Change by authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. If you have any desire to evaluate your life and work on areas that you have never been successful at changing, this almost-three-decade research project is a great read. It began almost 30 years ago from the question of why people don't change when their lives depend on it? A number of cardiac patients with death sentences were summoned to change their lives or die. They found that about 7 out of 8 never changed and consequently died. Why wouldn't anyone change if their life depended on it? The study progressed from there to a practical study of individual and corporate life as well.

The idea behind an immunity system is that it defends some needed element. In the case of our personal health, our immunity systems keep sickness and disease under control by destroying any foreign attackers, shielding our overall health. In the same way, Kegan and Lahey identify that we produce immunity systems to protect areas of our lives that are necessary to defend our views of ourselves. These immunity systems keep whatever they are protecting from experiencing environmental change through circumstances. Here is an example:

Imagine an inner circle that contains a part of my personality, specifically my abhorrence of being criticized. An immunity system built around that core component (as an outer ring) may be that I get angry when bothered or challenged. What others see is that I fly off the handle without, perhaps, any provocation. The problem isn't that I have anger issues--the problem is that I hate being criticized. The Kegan/Lahey approach helps delve into the reason for that inner circle issue and helps define ways to test it and change it. What drives the abhorrence of criticism? I will let you read the book to find out how the four step process flows for yourself.

The book is written from a secular standpoint and I don't suggest it carries the weight of scripture, however, it is extremely valuable for identifying ways to pursue personal change. It is an easy read that is a little slow in the beginning but quickly picks up speed. Their use of real-world experiences and studies puts flesh on the bones. I highly suggest it as a read.

Do you know someone that could benefit from this posting? Why not send it to them? Bryan Hurlbut is the author of Making It Count: Putting meaning back in business and relationships. This and other topics can be found in the book Making It Count: Putting meaning back in business and relationships.


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