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Leadership and the New Science

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  1. Leadership and the New Science Margaret Wheatley

  2. LEADERSHIP AND THE NEW SCIENCE • Who Is Margaret Wheatley? • What is the “New Science?” • Organizations as a System • Reflective Questions • Practical Implications

  3. WHO IS MARGARET WHEATLEY? • Education: • University of Rochester • University College London • M.A., New York University, Systems Thinking • Ph.D., Harvard, Administration, Planning, and Social Policy with a focus on organizational behavior and change. • Occupation: • Organizational Consultant and Researcher since 1973. • Interests: • Applying the lens of living systems theory to organizations and communities; and • Exploring the question: "How might we organize differently if we understood how life organizes?"

  4. WHO IS MARGARET WHEATLEY? • Selected Publications • Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.; 2002 • A Simpler Way, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.; 1996, Margaret J. Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers • Leadership and the New Science:Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.; 1999 • When Change is Out of Our Control, published "Human Resources in the 21st Century", John Wiley & Sons, 2003 • "Leadership In Turbulent Times Is Spiritual“, Frontiers of Health Services Management, Summer 2002 • "It's An Interconnected World“, Shambhala Sun May 2002 • "Restoring Hope to the Future Through Critical Education of Leaders“, Vimukt Shiksha, a bulletin of Shikshantar--The People's Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, March 2001

  5. WHO IS MARGARET WHEATLEY? • Research Focus • “Why do so many organizations feel lifeless?” • “Why does progress, when it appears, so often come from unexpected places, or as a result of surprises or synchronistic events that our planning had not considered?” • “Why does change itself, that event we’re all supposed to be ‘managing’ keep drowning us, relentlessly making us feel less capable and more confused?” • “Why have our expectations for success diminished to the point that often the best we hope for is endurance and patience to survive the frequent disruptive forces in our organizations and lives?”

  6. WHAT IS THE “NEW SCIENCE?” • “You think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one makes two. But you must also understand AND.” • – Sufi Teaching


  8. WHAT IS THE “NEW SCIENCE?” • Chaos Theory • Chaos Theory describes the complex motion and the dynamics of a system. A system can descend into chaos and unpredictability, yet within that state of chaos, the system is held within boundaries that are well-ordered and predictable. • Chaos is a necessary process for the creation of new order. • Chaos and order are complementary partners not polarities. • Chaos Theory tells us, in order to understand a system, we need to observe it as a system, in its wholeness – as shapes and patterns, not facts or data points. • Strange attractors and fractals illustrate chaos.

  9. WHAT IS THE “NEW SCIENCE?” • Quantum Physics • It challenges many basic assumptions in regard to understanding: • Relationships • Connectedness • Prediction • Control • Quantum matter develops a relationship with the observer and changes to meet his or her expectations. • Can determine probability and results of these interactions, but no particle can be drawn independent from the others.

  10. WHAT IS THE “NEW SCIENCE?” • Thermodynamics • Why do we seek equilibrium and live in fear of change? • Equilibrium is the end state in the evolution of a closed system. • At equilibrium, there is nothing left for the system to do. It is the point at which the system has exhausted all of its capacity for change. • We have treated organizations as closed systems, like machines. • We can’t help but live in fear of change if we assume that the universe is a closed system that will also wear down and stop. • By staying put and keeping our balance, we are able to defend ourselves against the eroding forces of nature.

  11. WHAT IS THE “NEW SCIENCE?” • Thermodynamics • Everything alive is an open system that engages with its environment purposely keeping itself off balance so that the system can continue to grow and evolve. • How does a system accomplish such growth and change? • Exchange of energy - trading useable energy for entropy. • Maintain state of non-equilibrium. • Positive/amplifying feedback. As information increases, disturbances grow. • Disturbances create disequilibrium. Disequilibrium leads to growth.

  12. WHAT IS THE “NEW SCIENCE?” • Disciplines Reformulating Theories • Evolution • Animal Behavior • Ecology • Physiology • Chemistry • Dissipative Structures - chemical systems reorganize themselves into greater order when confronted with changes in their environment (Ilya Prigogone, Nobel Prize 1977). • Chemical Clocks –change induced in the form of new chemicals or conditions creates disequilibrium. • Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction - electrons being passed between chemical compounds, swirling spiral patterns can be observed.

  13. WHAT IS THE “NEW SCIENCE?” • Field Theory • Space is filled with fields, invisible, non-material influences, that are the basic substance of the universe. • What fields do you encounter each day? • Gravity • Electromagnetic • Quantum • Morphic • Organizational Field – workplace is filled with interpenetrating influences and invisible forces that connect

  14. WHAT IS THE “NEW SCIENCE?” • Creating/Shaping Organizational Space • Use messages to create a field that results in behaviors you desire! • State and clarify • Make accessible • Reflect • Model them for employees • Conceptual Controls – the ideas of an organization are in control, not a manager with authority. • Culture • Mission • Values/ethics • Vision • Remember SPACE IS NEVER EMPTY.


  16. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Systems Inquire Into 3 Domains • Identity - Who are we? Who do we aspire to become? How shall we be together? • Information - What else do we need to know? Where is this new information to be found? • Relationships – Who and what else needs to be here to do this work with us?

  17. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Identity • Life organizes around identity. In organizations, if people are free to make their own decisions, guided by a clear organizational identity for them to reference, the whole system develops greater coherence and strength. The organization is less controlling, but more orderly.

  18. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Understanding Identity • If a living system can maintain its identity, it can self-organize to a higher level of complexity; a new form of itself that can deal better with the present. • Disruption initiates self-organization. • The more freedom in self-organization, the more order. • Every person maintains a clear sense of its individual identity. • Every person helps shape a system’s identity.

  19. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Information • Information is an essential nourishing element for all systems. It is a fundamental yet invisible player in a constantly evolving, dynamic universe. All life uses information to organize itself into form.

  20. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Understanding Information • How can information be used to foster self-organizing dynamics in an organization? • Work with information the same way that life does. Information feeding back on itself and changing in the process. • Evoke contribution through freedom, trusting that people can make sense of the information because they know their jobs, and they know the organization or team purpose. • Allow information to flow freely through systems, disturbing the peace. • Develop new approaches to information, not management but encouragement, not control but genesis.

  21. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Understanding Information • Potential benefits of free flowing information in an organization: • The greater the ability to process information, the greater the level of intelligence. • Information-rich, ambiguous environments are the source of surprising new births. • “Healthy processes create better relationships among us, more clarity about who we are, and more information about what’s going on around us. With these new connections, we grow healthier. We develop greater capacity to know what to do. We weave together an organization as resilient and flexible as a spider’s web.”

  22. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Relationships • We give up predictability and open up to potentials.

  23. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Understanding Relationships • What potential becomes reality, depends on the relationships created between multiple elements: • people • events • the moment • None of us exists independent of our relations with others. • Neither the system nor the individual is the more important influence of behavior. • Each organism in a system maintains a clear sense of its individual identity within a larger network of relationships that help shape it’s identity.

  24. ORGANIZATIONS AS A SYSTEM • Understanding Relationships • The Web of Relationships in Organizations. • Power is the capacity generated by our organizational relationships. • Developing Relationships • Quality not quantity • Look everywhere • Assessing an organization’s capacity for healthy relationships.

  25. REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS • Where is order to be found? • How do complex systems change? • How do we create structures that are flexible and adaptive, that enable rather than constrain? • How do we simplify things without losing what we value about complexity? • How do we resolve personal needs for autonomy and growth with organizational needs for prediction and accountability?

  26. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS • Accept chaos as an essential process by which natural systems, including organizations renew and revitalize themselves. • Share information as the primary organizing force in any organization. • Develop the rich diversity of relationships that are all around us, as to energize our teams. • Embrace identity and vision as an invisible field that can enable us to recreate our workplaces and our world.

  27. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS • How to Live in a Quantum World? • Learn how to facilitate process. • Become savvy about how to foster relationships. • Learn how to nurture growth and development. • Become better at listening, conversing, and respecting one another’s uniqueness.

  28. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS • Reformulating Organizational Change • Work with the whole of a system, even as we work with individual parts or isolated problems. • Leave behind the imaginary organization we design and learn to work within the dense network of interdependent relationships which is the real organization. • Anything living will change only if it sees change as means of preserving itself.

  29. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS • Leaders Should… • Help develop a clear identity that lights the dark in moments of confusion. • Support employees as they learn to incorporate values into their organizational lives. • Understand we are controlled by concepts that invite our participation, not policies and procedures that curtail our contribution. • Create space where people, ideas, and information circulate freely.

  30. RESOURCES • Wheatley, Margaret. Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World. San Francisco, 1999. • http://www.margaretwheatley.com, Margaret Wheatley.com, 2003. • http://www.scottlondon.com/insight/scripts/wheatley.html, The New Science of Leadership:An Interview with Meg Wheatley, 1992. • http://www.mpcfilms.com, Leadership and the New Science Training Video, 2003. • http://www.exploratorium.edu/learning_studio/auroras/happen.html, Auroras: Paintings in the Sky, 2003. • http://online.redwoods.cc.ca.us/instruct/darnold/DEProj/Sp98/Gabe/exp.htm, The Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction, Gabriel Peterson-College of the Redwoods, 2003. • Matthew Young, FSU-Department of Chemical Oceanography.