Reading Time: 2 minutes

My book review this week is on Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change by Greg Satell. I read this book thinking it might offer me some tips on implementing change in organizations. And it’s very different from many of the books on change management that I have read. That might be because it’s less about the management of change and more about how to start a change project that will take off.

Many of his stories relate to global change events, seemingly spear-headed by highly charismatic individuals, such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi. But Satell makes the point that the transformation is much less about the singular charismatic individual and more about the network circles and deep bonds within groups that were built to drive change.

Some takeaways include:

  • It is important to identify the keystone change that you want to make. He illustrates the importance of this through stories about the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements. Many people relate to the horrible treatment that some get in this country, but neither group has been able to successfully outline exactly what the change they want looks like. His point reminded me of the need to understand what success looks like.
  • It’s critical that movements be built on a set of shared values, not just a vision. He illustrates the importance of networks with shared values through fascinating stories about his experiences in Ukraine and the efforts to bring about a more democratic, European structure.
  • He describes how the “Spectrum of Allies” offers organizations a way to build support. You can’t jump to the top of a hierarchical organization and expect to demand change. You must start at the bottom and build support for your vision and values.
  • In addition to the clear vision for change, and a Spectrum of Allies, his three-pronged strategy includes identifying your “Pillars of Support.” These are the identified groups that can help you make changes and might include media, police, and business leaders.
  • Information often spreads better through casual acquaintances, rather than close bonds. And connections between network groups can spread exponentially after some building work is done. It is “small groups, loosely connected, but united by a common purpose” that drive change. (p. 19)
  • Gandhi and King both relied heavily on the principle of Satyagraha, or “truth force.” A key to this principle is non-violence. Both men heavily invested in training activists in the difficulties of remaining non-violent in the face of police brutality. The effort was extremely successful. And the violence associated with other movements, such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street may have limited their success.