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“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”


Consider the following ellipses from the books “Butterfly,” by Norie Huddle, and “Waking the Global Heart,” by Anodea Judith.

Caterpillars are consumers that eat non-stop. They become heavy; outgrowing their skin until they become too bloated to move. Attaching to a branch, they form a chrysalis and within that 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, and 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 behavior 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 the new cells are numerous enough to organize into clumps. When enough cells have formed to make structures along the new organizational lines, the caterpillar’s immune system is overwhelmed. The caterpillar body then becomes a nutritious soup for the growth of the butterfly.

(Did that just read soup!?)

Eventually, the entire long string of imaginal cells suddenly realizes it is something different from the caterpillar. Something new! Something wonderful! And then the butterfly emerges, vibrant, beautiful, light and free!


How amazing that something can completely reorganize from one state into another, exhibiting totally different gifts, assets and strengths. Something equally profound is happening within many courageous, forward-thinking workplace cultures in the process of transforming today, as innovative leaders replace consumerism (profit first) with purpose and values (people first).

Though we are awestruck by the incredible beauty of a butterfly, we often forget that the caterpillar had to first disintegrate into a messy, disorganized soup! That’s because we know the happy ending. Yep, being in a soup is a pretty apt description of workplace culture change, even at its best and its also fitting, that right before the butterfly emerges, the chrysalis becomes completely transparent. There can be significantly messy, vulnerable, awkward experiences, especially early on in your company’s transformation, as each person learns skills to build trust, develop power within rather than power over or power under, and shows up as an authentic team member. A beautiful transformation happens only when the majority of employees work to dismantle gossip, blaming, victim consciousness, rebellion, punishment, bribing and a whole lot more. Most of all, each must let go of any addiction to familiar. Culture change can literally feel like the end of the world because in large part, it is.

So, why this talk of caterpillars and butterflies in a business article? Here’s why: For you brave business owners and leaders, ready to turn your organization into the agile, innovative and creative potential it can be, we assure you that incredible beauty and possibility await you. You will be creating at the speed, and with the power, of your highest vision, and that will require courage, vulnerability and mental fortitude. At LifeWork Systems, we help amazing “imaginals” to be fully supported and guided through a proven culture transformation process so that progress is gradual and graceful. We applaud you, current and future imaginals, and hold the vision with you for expanded success you never dreamed possible.

To your emergence!

Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

People hire LifeWork Systems because they need and want us to shake up business as usual. We show everyone how and why to get involved and play nice; why they matter. No one gets away with second-rate anymore because we make excuses obsolete. Mostly, people get to choose when and where to get tooled up, and we even put reference tools on their phones and in audio forms. We make it fun, inspiring and relevant or what’s the point?! We don’t let any one or any good idea get dusty on a shelf. Every day for months, new ways of thinking and acting get hashed out, and faith in humanity is restored until everyone is crazy excited about people and the work, and mediocrity is OVER. Then you see some serious barn-raising going on. It’s an amazing ride!

This article will be published in my column The Extraordinary Workplace in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, February, 2017 (my first article in this column was January 2012)

Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Her mission is “to help people create conditions in which all people love their lives.” She can be reached at 314-239-4727.