The Difference Between Change and Transformation


Our lives are more of a moving picture than a single image. But, how we interpret all the activity and alterations that occur over the years can determine whether we simply see changes or whether we experience transformation.

Change and transformation can happen at both the personal and professional level. In fact, researchers have been trying to find ways to measure both, and according to the Harvard Business Review, defining transformation has proven difficult.

“It’s much more unpredictable, iterative, and experimental. It entails much higher risk,” the HBR noted. The publication acknowledged that on the business level, change does not always lead to transformation.

“Even if successful change management leads to the execution of certain initiatives within the transformation portfolio, the overall transformation could still fail.”

Change vs Transformation

The meanings of change and transformation overlap, but there is an important, but subtle distinction between the two words. This difference is key to understanding the difference between a change and transformation.

The distinction is so important that Landmark Forum, which provides personal and professional growth, training and development courses, describes the distinction.  “Change is essentially a comparison to something that previously existed,” their website states.

Elsewhere, the Oxford Dictionary defines change as “Make or become different.”

Meanwhile, the definition of transformation is “A marked change in form, nature, or appearance.” according to the Oxford Dictionary.

Anyone can make a change in their lives, either by switching jobs or making a different choice with regards to their actions or behaviour. However, a transformation goes deeper. Rather than an external alteration of something, a transformation changes what is beneath the surface. It goes deeper.

Landmark Forum reviews the concept, noting: “By its very nature, change is past-based. Essentially, change yields more, better, or different from what came before”.  The organization notes that “Transformation, on the other hand, is an act of bringing forth or inventing. It is something created and is inherently expansive and infinite.”

Change or transformation

Change is an alteration of something in our lives, but it does not always lead to transformation.

Simply responding to change does not make us different inside. Ultimately, it is a transformation that can have the most positive impact on a person’s life or career. This is where growth and freedom are found. By reflecting on what aspects of our lives or personalities have been exposed by the change, we can transform ourselves. A good example is to think about the transformation a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly.

Reviews on Landmark Forum and other personal development programs note that a shift or transformation can occur for participants. Oftentimes, individuals need to seek out programs to help them refocus their goals or future dreams. It is here that transformation can lead to change. When a participant experiences the freedom of transformation, it enables them to see their lives in a new way. They are then in a position to make positive changes to bring about the future they want to have.


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