PERSONAL LEARNING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT:
UNDERSTANDING AND OVERCOMING THE “IMMUNITY TO CHANGE”
Robert Kegan, Ph.D.
Why is it so difficult for us to bring about changes in ourselves which we genuinely intend?
There are a host of usual answers: “the incentives weren’t right”; “lack of technical know-
how”; “maybe I was not actually committed to the change in the first place!”. But in too
many instances the usual answers are not very good!
In this fast-moving, experiential, and interactive workshop, Harvard professor Robert Kegan
will invite each of us to make use of our own experience to explore the concept of an
“immunity to change” -- and what we can do about it. Having spent a lifetime researching
the process by which adults gradually develop greater capacities by making previously
invisible dynamics observable and engage-able, Kegan and his colleague Lisa Lahey (How
the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, Jossey-Bass, 2001), have designed this
“new lab for professional learning” in order to incubate similar kinds of development in a
briefer period of time.
The session you are about to experience has now been conducted throughout the US and
Europe with all manner of professional groups: K-12 and university educators and
administrators; CEOs and the CIA; bankers and firefighters; software engineers and
management students; psychologists and psychiatrists; human resource officers,
government leaders, international business consultants, state judges, attorneys, and
Participants should come expecting to have a good time while doing some hard and
valuable introspective work. The process Kegan and Lahey have built emphasizes safety in
the process of personal discovery. Participants are not required to make any of their work
public, and are encouraged to set the pace that works best for them throughout the
ROBERT KEGAN is the Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional
Development, and Co-Director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard University
Graduate School of Education.
The recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, his thirty years of research and
writing on adult development have contributed to the recognition that ongoing psychological
development after adolescence is at once possible and necessary to meet the demands of
modern life. His seminal books, The Evolving Self and In Over Our Heads, have been
published in several languages throughout the world.
With long-time colleague, Lisa Lahey, he is also the author of How the Way We Talk Can
Change the Way We Work, and the widely distributed Harvard Business Review article,
“The Real Reason People Don’t Change,” Kegan and Lahey are credited with a
breakthrough discovery of a hidden dynamic which impedes personal and organizational
transformation. This work (on what they call “the immunity to change”) has now found its
way into the practice of leaders and senior teams in business, governmental, and
educational organizations in the United States, Europe, and Asia. This fall they received
from Boston University the Gislason Award for exceptional contributions to organizational
leadership, joining past recipients Warren Bennis, Peter Senge, and Edgar Schein. This
winter they were invited faculty at the annual Davos Conference.
One of twenty, among Harvard’s 2300 faculty, honored by the president of the university for
his outstanding teaching, Kegan also serves as the co-director of Harvard's Change
Leadership Group, a Gates Foundation-funded program to enhance leadership capacities
for district-wide improvement in America's public schools. He is the educational chair of
Harvard's Institute for Management and Leadership in Education; and co-director of a joint
program undertaken by Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Graduate School of
Education to bring principles of adult learning to the reform of medical education.
Bob took his A.B., summa cum laude, from Dartmouth College, and Ph.D. from Harvard
University. He is also an avid poker player, an airplane pilot, and the unheralded inventor of
the “Base Average,” a superior statistic for gauging offensive contribution in baseball.