Transformation trauma refers to significant and rapid change that is introduced within an organization or complex issue that significantly disrupts, affects, and reorganizes long-standing practices with the goal of greater innovation or deeper impact (Munro & Khan, 2013).
This sparked a more intense conversation that continued into the next morning as we were getting ready for the day. As I brushed my teeth and he put in his contacts, we discussed those powerful words . . . transformation trauma. It felt like such an oxymoron. The word transformation is defined as a thorough or dramatic change in form, or an act, process, or instance of transforming. Every definition of transformation is perceived as good and positive, euphonious, and something everyone should want or desire. In many beloved self-help books of this generation, we see titles such as transform your life, changing insights, education for self-transformation, digital transformation, challenge and transformation, and the list goes on and on. Transformation is seen as revolutionary, elevating, and readying you for the next level of something magnificent. Trauma, on the other hand, is defined as an injury or a behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress, or physical injury, or an agent, force or mechanism that causes trauma. Trauma is seen as scary, something you should fear and avoid at all cost, and something that is forced on you and meant to cause you harm or injury.
If this is how we see change in the context of solving the world’s complex challenges, it’s no wonder we all have such a sharp range of responses to embrace, resist, challenge, or stop it. This raises challenges to ponder: How do we create enough healthy tension to embrace transformation and change without it being traumatic? How can we unpack this phenomenon in a way that facilitates practices, grace, and support that enables us all to to reach and grow new markets and address deeply entrenched social issues that will impact generations to come?
Here are some insights on how to introduce transformational change that propels organizations and sectors forward with a shared state and vision which can be uncomfortable but not traumatic.
Tracey Greene-Washington is the founder of CoThinkk and Nexus Point Consulting. NC Early Childhood Foundation board member, and former board chair of the Center for Leadership Innovation. She has over 18 years experience in the philanthropic and nonprofit sector working on initiatives focused on leadership development, community economic development, health and wellbeing, and education.