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Creating contagious commitment: Applying the tipping point to organizational change

A teacher explores change theories described in Creating contagious commitment: Applying the tipping point to organizational change by Andrea Shapiro.

By Andrea Shapiro
2004, (199 pp./paperback)
Strategy Perspective
ISBN: 0-9741028-0-6

Reviewed by Leslie K. Jones
Apex Middle School
Wake County Public School District (NC)

Change is something that all people and organizations deal with in one form or another daily. Quite often change initiatives fail to realize their potential in an organization.

Some change theorists are looking to the sciences these days to clarify change: Margaret Wheatley incorporates organizational change and physics theory; and Peter Senge and others incorporate the biological sciences, expanding on human purpose in all types of organizations. Other individual's have also written about the spread of social epidemics, as Malcolm Gladwell did in his book The Tipping Point (2002).

Dr Andrea Shapiro utilizes several early theories of change in creating her simulation and workshop model. Kurt Lewin, she notes, saw change as a process. Marvin Weisbord provides a way to understand an organization; William Bridges incorporates people and transition in a change situation; and Darly Conner offers ideas about participatory management and the roles they play in the change initiative.

Shapiro developed a computer simulation and workshop that utilizes basic information from health studies in the spread of disease in 1997. She is using the simulation and workshop to assist business organizations in their change efforts. This book provides examples from business organizations that have successfully used the simulation and workshop to generate change the organization desired.

I have taken a Leadership for Change course at a local university where my fellow doctoral students and I studied and analyzed different change theories and the theorist behind the theory. Dr. Shapiro's was not one we investigated, which is one of the reasons I was interested in reading her book. After spending 15 years in K-12 education and taking graduate courses at local universities, I know that change is a process that can have an astounding effect on individuals. Change in education abounds.

I found her ability to clarify complex concepts stimulating. She clearly spent time analyzing and applying the simulation and workshop she created based on social epidemics to different business organizations. Dr Shapiro explains how a level of success is appropriate in organizations where the simulation provided enhancement and expansion of the training and thinking processes of change agents in the organization.

She has provided detailed diagrams and charts to explain how her theory of change works and clarifying descriptions for the diagrams. Having had a background in change theory helped me to understand the book's content. Shapiro does not discuss her simulation in detail, but refers to the simulation and its use in relationship to the assistance she provides to business organizations.

Creating Contagious Commitment offers an in-depth and clear presentation suitable for business organizations. Without an understanding of business systems, however, the book may be a challenge. Even so, Shapiro's ideas suggest a new venue of research and exploration that could prove beneficial in many educational settings.

Should a teacher leader read this book? I believe it would help to expand the thinking and understanding of how different types of individuals respond to a change initiative and help to identify and utilize appropriate people in the work place. This book stimulates thought and curiosity on applications in educational situations. Administrators and teacher leaders at all educational levels would benefit from training and application in change theory, especially as it relates to the human component and the interaction between the organization, administration, staff, and our client population. Developing a period of trial and error in a safe place (suggested by Shapiro through the use of the computer simulation) provides leadership with some space to try out their ideas before implementation.