Changing on the Job by Jennifer Garvey Berger
  • Title: Changing on the Job
  • Subtitle: Developing Leaders for a Complex World
  • Author(s): Jennifer Garvey Berger
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Year: 2011-11-30
  • ISBN-10: 0804782865
  • ISBN-13: 9780804782869


In “Changing on the Job,” Jennifer Garvey Berger offers a fresh perspective on personal and professional growth through the lens of adult development. Focusing on the idea of developmental stages, Berger presents a comprehensive framework for understanding how individuals can navigate complexity and thrive in their work environments. Through insightful analysis and engaging storytelling, she explores the different ways people make meaning of their experiences and learn to adapt and grow through challenging situations. The book not only provides practical advice for professionals, but it also encourages readers to reflect on their own development and offers valuable insights for managers and leaders seeking to foster growth and transformation within their organizations.

Berger’s book is a pioneering work that combines theories from psychology and organizational development, transforming them into actionable strategies for personal and professional growth. She skillfully weaves together real-life examples and research to illustrate the importance of continually evolving one’s mindset and capabilities in a rapidly changing world. By emphasizing the significance of self-awareness and reflective practice, Berger empowers readers to unlock their full potential and navigate complexities with confidence. Overall, “Changing on the Job” is an essential read for anyone seeking to enhance their effectiveness in the workplace and create a culture of continuous learning and growth.

Book Review

In her book “Changing on the Job,” Jennifer Garvey Berger takes readers on a transformative journey of personal and professional development. Drawing from her expertise in adult development and organizational change, Berger presents an insightful and practical framework for navigating complexity and thriving in the workplace.

One of the standout elements of this book is Berger’s focus on developmental stages. She introduces the concept of the “socialized mind,” where individuals are driven by the need for approval and seek to fit in, often conforming to societal norms and expectations. Berger then delves into the “self-authoring mind,” where individuals cultivate their authentic voice and become more independent in their thinking and decision-making. Finally, she explores the “self-transforming mind,” where individuals hold multiple perspectives simultaneously and are able to navigate complex and uncertain situations.

Through captivating storytelling and real-life examples, Berger brings these developmental stages to life. One notable example is the story of Beth, a leader struggling to have a difficult conversation with a team member. Berger illustrates how individuals in the socialized mind may avoid conflict and seek to please others at the expense of their own growth. On the other hand, individuals in the self-authoring mind understand the importance of honesty and transparency, but may struggle to balance assertiveness with sensitivity. By sharing these examples, Berger provides readers with relatable situations and demonstrates how different mindsets can shape the way we approach challenges.

Berger also explores the power of reflection and self-awareness in fostering personal growth. She introduces a concept called “third-person perspective,” encouraging individuals to step back and observe their own thinking and actions from an outsider’s viewpoint. This practice allows individuals to gain valuable insights, challenge their assumptions, and make more intentional choices. Berger reminds readers that this type of reflection is not a quick fix or a one-time exercise, but rather a continuous process that requires patience and dedication.

As a professional coach and consultant, Berger also provides guidance for managers and leaders looking to create a culture of growth and adaptability within their organizations. She emphasizes the importance of embracing complexity and supporting employees in their development journey. Berger illustrates this with a case study of a software company that adopted a self-transforming approach to leadership development. By encouraging leaders to embrace their own personal growth and model it for their teams, the company experienced a significant shift in its culture and performance.

Overall, “Changing on the Job” is a thought-provoking and enriching book that offers practical insights and strategies for personal and professional growth. Jennifer Garvey Berger’s expertise and engaging storytelling make complex concepts accessible and relatable. Through her guidance, readers are encouraged to not only reflect on their own development but also foster growth and transformation within their organizations. Whether you are an individual seeking to enhance your effectiveness or a leader looking to cultivate a learning culture, this book is an invaluable resource for navigating the complexities of the modern workplace.

Word Count: 492

Key Ideas

Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World” by Jennifer Garvey Berger is a book that explores the concept of adult development and how it impacts leadership and professional growth. Here are the key ideas and themes from the book:

  1. Adult Development Theory A central theme of the book is adult development theory, which suggests that individuals continue to grow and develop psychologically and cognitively throughout their lives. Garvey Berger introduces readers to different models of adult development, including the stages described by Robert Kegan.

  2. Subject-Object Shift Garvey Berger discusses the idea of a “subject-object shift” in adult development. This shift involves moving from a perspective where one is subject to external circumstances and perspectives to a more complex and nuanced view where one can hold multiple perspectives simultaneously.

  3. Leadership Complexity The book explores how leadership roles become more complex as individuals progress through stages of adult development. Leaders at different stages have different ways of making sense of the world, handling ambiguity, and leading others.

  4. Self-Authorship One of the key concepts in the book is the idea of self-authorship, where individuals become capable of authoring their own values, beliefs, and perspectives rather than relying solely on external sources of authority. This is a critical skill for leaders in complex environments.

  5. Immunity to Change Garvey Berger introduces the concept of “immunity to change,” which refers to the subconscious resistance to personal change even when individuals are motivated to change. Understanding and overcoming immunity to change is a key part of leadership development.

  6. Developmental Stages The book outlines various stages of adult development, as described by Kegan and others. These stages include the socialized mind, the self-authoring mind, and the self-transforming mind, each with its own characteristics and challenges.

  7. Leadership Competencies Garvey Berger discusses how leadership competencies evolve as individuals progress through developmental stages. Leaders at higher stages are more adaptable, better at dealing with complexity, and capable of facilitating growth in others.

  8. Leadership Development Practices The book offers practical guidance on leadership development practices that can help individuals and organizations foster growth in leaders. This includes practices for creating developmental challenges, supporting reflective learning, and fostering a growth mindset.

  9. Complexity and Adaptive Leadership Garvey Berger emphasizes the need for adaptive leadership in complex and rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leaders are those who can navigate uncertainty, leverage diverse perspectives, and facilitate change effectively.

  10. Organizational Implications The book explores how organizations can create environments that support adult development and adaptive leadership. It discusses the role of leadership development programs, coaching, and organizational culture in promoting growth.

Changing on the Job” is a valuable resource for leaders, educators, and anyone interested in understanding how adult development impacts leadership and personal growth. It provides insights into the challenges and opportunities that come with increased complexity in leadership roles and offers practical strategies for leadership development in a complex world.

Target Audience

The book “Changing on the Job” by Jennifer Garvey Berger is targeted at a diverse audience interested in personal and professional development and organizational change. The book is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Professionals and Individuals Seeking Personal Growth Berger’s book provides valuable insights and practical strategies for individuals looking to enhance their effectiveness and navigate complexity in their work environments. Whether you are just starting your career or have years of experience, the book offers tools and perspectives that can help you develop a growth mindset and thrive in your professional journey.

  • Managers and Leaders For those in leadership positions, “Changing on the Job” is an invaluable resource for understanding the dynamics of personal and organizational change. Berger’s framework can guide leaders in developing their own self-awareness and reflective practice, which in turn can support their teams’ growth and foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.

  • Human Resources and Learning and Development Professionals HR professionals and those responsible for designing and implementing organizational learning programs can benefit greatly from Berger’s insights. The book provides a solid foundation for understanding adult development and offers practical suggestions for creating development initiatives that align with individuals’ growth stages and needs.

  • Coaches and Consultants Professionals in the coaching and consulting fields will find “Changing on the Job” to be a valuable resource in their practice. Berger’s research and real-life examples shed light on the complexities of adult development and provide guidance on how to support individuals in their growth journeys.

Changing on the Job” is recommended reading as it offers a comprehensive and accessible exploration of adult development and its implications for personal and organizational growth. With its practical advice, insightful examples, and engaging storytelling, the book provides a valuable resource for anyone seeking to enhance their effectiveness, navigate complexity, and foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptation in the workplace.