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On organizational transformation and imaginal cells

In her book Waking the Global Heart, Anodea Judith writes:

“When a caterpillar nears its transformation time, it begins to eat ravenously, consuming everything in sight … the body then becomes heavy, outgrowing its own skin many times, until it is too bloated to move.Attaching to a branch … it forms a chrysalis – an enclosing shell that limits the caterpillar’s freedom for the duration of the transformation. 

Within the chrysalis a miracle occurs. Tiny cells, that biologists call “Imaginal cells”, begin to appear. These cells are wholly different from caterpillar cells, carrying different information, vibrating to a different frequency – the frequency of the emerging butterfly.

At first, the caterpillar’s immune system perceives these new cells as enemies, and attacks them, much as new ideas in science, medicine, politics, and social behaviour are viciously denounced by the powers now considered mainstream.

But the imaginal cells are not deterred. They continue to appear, in even greater numbers, recognizing each other, bonding together, until … enough cells have formed to make structures along the new organizational lines. The caterpillar body then becomes a nutritious soup for the growth of the butterfly.

When the butterfly is ready to hatch, the chrysalis becomes transparent. The need for restriction has been outgrown. Yet the struggle toward freedom has an organic timing.”

The butterfly’s beginnings are like organizational transformation.

It often starts with fighting the system, battling old habits and mindsets. Until, like imaginal cells, a group joins together, vibrating at a different frequency, set apart from what has gone before. 

At Aberkyn, our role is to create and stimulate the imaginal cells in an organization. Linking them together, we help new forms take shape.

Published by Kai Grunewald,
Tuesday 1 December 2015