The idea of making a difference has a powerful allure. At an early age, I hoped to make the world kinder, safer, and healthier. If you’re reading this book, you’re likely also drawn to making positive changes. Many of us seek out high-complexity roles and careers in pursuit of bigger challenges that we hope will lead to a bigger impact. And many changes grow from simple beginnings, rooted in our daily experiences.
Yet, changemaking isn’t a skill we apprenticed or studied. Often, it happens through experimentation. What works in one situation will fail in another. Even the most iconic changemakers in human history didn’t have a clear roadmap for making these skills ubiquitous in people’s lives.
In Changemakers, Christopher and Maria offer a powerful set of qualities for what it means to be a changemaking leader. Candid insights from a diversity of leaders make this book deeply relatable and widely applicable. Christopher and Maria interweave these voices with their own decades of hard-won lessons. Their pioneering work as systems thinkers, as women in tech, and as design-minded CEOs has eased a path for many of us to follow.
One of the greatest challenges I faced in writing Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design was a haunting resistance to change. What makes systemic change so incredibly challenging is the human factor. It transcends multiple stakeholders and lifetimes. And let’s face it, we have a lot of room to improve how humans communicate, collaborate, and build relationships. Heraclitus’s eternal words “change is the only constant in life” ring true now more than ever. But change itself isn’t what defeats us. It’s the predictable aftershock that accompanies change: fear.
Even the mere mention of change can trigger anger, disbelief, and despair. This makes changemaking a precarious endeavor. It can be lonely and heartbreaking. But the ruthless optimism of Changemakers reminds us that we’re never alone in our work. Fear is an expected reaction that we can equip ourselves to face. Rather than being caught on our heels, can we prepare ourselves to respond proactively to change when it’s upon us?
Christopher and Maria invite us to embrace change through a human-centered perspective—one that is led by compassion and creativity. They built upon their previous book, The Rise of the DEO, with a deeper look at how to approach any problem and opportunity as a design challenge.
The complexity that we face in the 21st century demands that we do better. The work of change must be more like a dance and less like leading an army. More like gardening and less like architecting. We must give up the urge to command and control our way through change. We must embrace progress over perfection. We must let go of pushing for the right answers and open up to asking better questions.
As Christopher and Maria say, “No one hires a design team in hopes of maintaining the status quo.” And “Modern changemakers are those who would no longer treat problems as if they were fixed in time, but rather seek solutions suitable to evolving and complex circumstances.”
I wish you all the best in doing this work with great hope, audacity, and care for one another.