Long ago, when I was an engineering student, I had to work through quantum mechanics. In fact I liked it very much. The idea of having uncertainty because you could know position or speed at detail but not both at the same time was really appealing to me. There’s another view to Heisemberg’s principle: when you observe a reality, you can’t avoid changing it, because you become a participant. I remember discovering Heisemberg’s uncertainty principle and seeing it all around. I’ve grown accustomed to its presence.
But this concept acquired a new life in management. Many authors have tried to draw parallelisms, as I was doing at that time.
I’ve just found another author that does it. Only that this time it’s an interesting individual.
Danah Zohar is many things, physicist, management teacher, writer, philosopher and consultant. She has five books. Guess what: two contain the word “spiritual”, two more the “quantum” word and the last one the word “brain”. And they are all about management.
“Quantum physics tells us that the Universe actually consists of patterns of dynamic energy, self-organizing wave patterns like so many whirlpools, the boundaries of each interlaced with those of all the others.
The essence of quantum physics describes an infixed, both/and level of reality that thrives on ambiguity and uncertainty at something very like the edge of chaos.”
So, what is it that Danah has to tell about organisations? Here you have some key ideas:
- Thinking structures in the human brain are organisational structures too: a lot of individuals cooperating, interfering, and a global result for individual efforts.
- Western organisations are modelled on linear thinking whereas eastern organisations are more based on cooperation. Conflict is avoided with rules. Maybe that’s why we resort to our lawyers to know individual behaviour and algorithms, while eastern organisations think about the intentions behind the words, not about the place of the semicolon, and trust or distrust their interlocutors. Conflict is avoided with trust.
- Creativity comes from “quantum thinking”, while we are searching for meaning. While we are dissipating energy, when we dream. The vision becomes a new paradigm by thinking out of the box and leading at the edge.
- Regardless of their efforts to embrace change and evolve, organisations are unable to cope with change because they don’t engage their people with the ultimate meaning of what they are intending to do and the values behind their actions. Growth needs transformation, and transformation also means disarray.
What would a quantum organisation be like?
- Holistic. Understood as a whole, with relationships joining managers and employees, the different divisional and functional groups, related to its stakeholders, its context, to the society, ecological.
- Indeterminate. That means unpredictable too. Could go from order to chaos any minute, and back. That makes it flexible and responsible too. And its structures unstable too, no fixed divisions, just movable walls.
- Self organising. Usually that means from the bottom up. Its members must be responsible for themselves and then transmit part of the responsibility to the organisation. And ideas must flow freely, along with people, when removing the movable walls. Self aware.
- Diverse. And grow from diversity, not just tolerate it. From diversity a shared vision will arise, also from the bottom up. That vision will be able to serve diverse markets, diverse needs, as the world is diverse per se. No more “my way or no way”.
- Distributed. Just like a jazz band in a jam session. No conductor, just players, trying to do their best, and to add their energies, their different energies, towards a common goal. Many questions and many answers. Many products created and defined, and many approaches to imagining. Field-independent.
- Potential. It’s not the now, it’s the future. What we can do, what we will create and achieve. The future lies ahead; it’s all probabilities, not securities. Just like quantum mechanics are. Not afraid to play, to try. Not afraid to fail or to take risks.
- Participatory. Integrated into society, with the participant, the customer and the observer. Concerned about the environment, about society, about its people, about nature, about culture. The servant that leads. Reframed.
- Transcendental. Vision centred and value driven. Those are the elements that glue it all together and transform diversity into achievement, noise into useful energy. The why leading to because.
- Alive and evolutionary. Growing, becoming more than they were. Reaching where they were not thought to arrive.
If I had to summarise all that I’d say that the important idea is to go from the bottom up, adding the different energies and collaborating in a shared vision that transforms itself from potential to actual reality.
Go to the edge. Breathe. Think. Is your organisation a quantum organisation? Change and feel. Live and make your life worth it.