What you can learn about change management from this famous Eames video

Latest Articles

Get he latest change articles delivered to you!
Subscribe Now

“The Powers of Ten” are two short documentary movies made by Ray and Charles Eames who are most known to us as makers of fabulous mid-century furniture.  These include the Eames lounge chair and ottoman and the DCW (molded plywood chair).    The Powers of Ten is touted as the most famous movie made by Ray and Charles Eames, completed in 1977.  The work depicts the scale of the universe according to an order of magnitude.  The video starts with a couple having a picnic.  Then it zooms out into space and then zooms back in again, eventually zooming into molecular levels.  The link to the famous 9-min video can be found here.

Continuity and change

The Eames office states that “Powers of Ten illustrates the universe as an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery”.  To what extent do you understand your organisation in terms of its continuity and change?  What are the activities that are constant and ongoing from a business-as-usual perspective and what are those that are being changed and altered?  What are peak customer periods where it’s all hands-on-deck for the frontline staff?  How are changes being planned having taken these busy periods into account?  Are there changes that are still being embedded that need to continue before new changes are rolled out?  What is the right balance of continuity and change for each part of the business?

Relative cultural environment

The work cultural environment of the employee is critical in how we understand change.  As the movie starts to zoom in or out we see a very different view of perspectives within almost every frame.  When we are sending communication messages during change from the above, how do these make sense to employees at different levels?  Do we understand their view as we craft these messages?  What is the employee’s particular cultural context and what lenses do they view things through?

As we implement a series of changes impacting employees across the organisation, do we have a clear view of what the relative impact is on the employee?  Often we see initiative owners who are very keen to market their initiative as the most significant and impactful change.  How does this compare to other initiatives relatively? Are there other initiatives that are more important and impactful at one level of the organisation compared to another level?  How do we support the clarity of the initiatives that are of higher priority for the organization?

Cross collaboration through context

To drive change success collaboration is required between the drivers of the change and the receivers of the change.  The drivers of the change need to supply the information, the intent, the energy, the leadership and resources for the change.  The receivers need to supply the feedback, support, understanding and behaviour change.  Collaboration happens when there is cross understanding of each other’s context. For example, why are we changing? How are we going to do it?  What does it require?  So understanding the cultural context of the receivers is also crucial for the change drivers.

Sense of curiosity

Adopting a sense of curiosity is also important for the change driver.  The film explores the boundaries of the universe and atomic levels of understanding.  In the same way, the change driver also needs to call out what are the boundaries of understanding across the organization.  Are there some parts of the organization better engaged and represented than other parts?  Are some more inundated with changes and will have less focus compared to another part? What does our data tell us about the context for each layer of the organization?  What are the fields where you have no data?  All of these are important considerations.

Ray and Charles Eames are icons of design in the current century.  Their exploration and play in creating the Powers of Ten has raised important implications for us in change management.  How do we learn from Ray and Charles Eames to be designers of change? How do we see the forest from the tree and the tree from the forest?  Food for thought …

Read about the 5 things Eames taught me about agile project delivery.


To understand more about how to be able to see and to zoom in and out of the change context and landscape of an organization please visit us on www.thechangecompass.com or contact us on [email protected]

If you’ve found this article interesting, please ‘like’ and share this with your connections.

Related Posts

The resistance to change that we can all relate to

The resistance to change that we can all relate to

Change is an inevitable part of, not just corporate life, but life in general. It's a natural occurrence that we all must face at some point. But despite the many benefits that change can bring, many of us are still reluctant to embrace it. After all, for many, it is...

Change practitioner Q&A series: Alvaro Pacheco

Change practitioner Q&A series: Alvaro Pacheco

In this Change Practitioner Q&A Series we interview change practitioners to find out more about how they approach their work. A bit about Alvaro … Alvaro is a change and program management professional, with experience in diverse industries, from Energy &...

Data-driven change environment (infographic)

Data-driven change environment (infographic)

Data is king. This is especially in current times of uncertainty. With data comes power, influence and outcomes. Lots of disciplines have leveraged the power of data to drive better outcomes. Marketers would not dream of doing any part of their job without data....