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The French artist and photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand launched his new documentary HUMAN simultaneously at the United Nations and Venice Film Festival on September 12, 2015. Since last month, the documentary has also been available on YouTube and shown in cinemas. This deeply humanistic documentary provides insights in what it means to be human. It shows in an (existential) way the uniqueness of human beings. That is the theme of this 44rd edition of the Change Letter: the unique human being.


HUMAN in a global context

In a period of increasing debates about refugees, terrorist attacks and climate change; dividing countries, politics, organizations and people, Yann Arthus-Bertrand collected, in a period of three years, real-life stories from 2,020 women and men in 60 countries and 63 languages. His impressive documentary critically reflects on life on earth. As the press release announced, HUMAN is really a reflection on the human condition. It intends to fuel a conversation about the meaning of our existence, and empowers people to make social change.

In the introduction of his documentary Yann states: “For the past 40 years I have been photographing our planet and its human diversity, and I have the feeling that humanity is not making progress. We can’t always manage to live together. Why is that? I didn’t look for an answer in statistics or analysis, but in man himself.”


HUMAN in an organizational context

More or less the same question that puzzled Yann, can be asked in an organizational context. Change programs do not always make progress and we can’t always manage to work together. Why is that? I believe that one of the main reasons is that there is too much focus on the content and aims of change programs and too little on the uniqueness of the human beings involved. Moreover, because most of the traditional (change) management literature and models are based on linear thinking, and search for general structures and patterns, they rationalize organizational culture and human behavior. They overlook the complexity of social interaction of (groups of) unique human beings in their natural habitat … in this case: their organization.

What really struck me in the documentary is that Yann focuses on uniqueness by zooming in on personal and emotional accounts and narratives on the other and otherness. He goes beyond rationality trying to read people’s faces and trying to look into their souls. In this way he gets (more) insight in human beliefs, feelings, emotions, and well-being. His work truly is an astonishing example of existential sociology and ethnographic research on human beings in their natural context. Without really understanding and taking care of the other, we may not be able to find solutions for human dilemmas in today’s global world. We need these solutions to make change ‘happen’, and to manage transition programs in organizations successfully and meaningfully for all involved. This demands a people-oriented change philosophy and methodology, as well as a fitting management style.

Back to Yann’s documentary HUMAN. If you could find some time during the upcoming holiday season, I would urge you to watch at least one of the volumes to get more insights into uniqueness of human beings. The documentary just might change your perception about people in a global context, and could even help you to reflect on the uniqueness of human beings in your own organization.

I wish you a meaningful 2016, both personally and professionally!

If you are interested in more information about human interaction or have personal experiences that you would like to share with me, please feel free to let me know. You can mail me or contact me via my LinkedIn account.

Dr. Martin Loeve

More information: see our website or contact us directly.
Source image: utahsweetsavings.com


Dr. Martin Loeve is the founding director of Delta Change Management, an international consultancy firm specializing in research, consultancy and education in the field of change management, with a focus on the human factor.


Martin has, amongst other things, authored the management book De Change Maker® (Loeve, 2004) on managing small-scale change processes and the article Mindset Change in a Cross Cultural Context (Loeve, 2007). He was awarded the Ph.D.-title for his thesis Ander-ing On-Stage Addressing Expatriate Loneliness at the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht in March 2014.


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