Leadership and the New Science Info

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In 1992, Leadership and the New Science launched a
revolution by demonstrating that ideas drawn from quantum physics, chaos
theory, and molecular biology could improve organizational performance.
Margaret Wheatley called for free-flowing information, individual
empowerment, relationship networks, and organizational change that
evolves organically -- ideas that have become commonplace. This new
edition includes a new chapter that examines the relationship of change
to identity.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.01

2504 Ratings

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Reviews for Leadership and the New Science:

1

Dec 30, 2013

I blame myself for not reading an excerpt before buying this book. I assumed it was about using data to lead in an increasingly data heavy world. Instead it is about the similarities between quantum physics and leading an organisation.

The author contorts herself in all kinds of directions to draw parallels that could be read the opposite way in each case. Margaret Wheatley seems to exult in being as vague as possible and shies away from giving any real usable advice. It is literary masturbation I blame myself for not reading an excerpt before buying this book. I assumed it was about using data to lead in an increasingly data heavy world. Instead it is about the similarities between quantum physics and leading an organisation.

The author contorts herself in all kinds of directions to draw parallels that could be read the opposite way in each case. Margaret Wheatley seems to exult in being as vague as possible and shies away from giving any real usable advice. It is literary masturbation and devoid of any real content. What I'm most impressed by is how she manages to stretch a glorified thought exercise into so many pages.

I judge a book by 2 criteria. Did I find it interesting and is there anything I can use from it in my life (personal or business)? A business book has to improve someone's knowledge of business by the end of it. This is a spectacular failure. I can understand why so many pseudo-literary business types will enjoy this book. I like plain words, clarity and decisiveness. This book will help no-one make more money for their organisation. The main lesson I learnt was about reading the reviews carefully first before buying my next book. ...more
5

Jan 31, 2016

This book gave me an epiphany on practically every page. I learned about both leadership and science. I think studying them together helps improve understanding of both disciplines.

The notes I’ve posted below generated a lot of fodder for discussions in classes I taught.

Wheatley compared “strange attractors” to having a sense of purpose. (Strange attractors draw chaotic matter in and pull the system into its shape.) A sense of purpose gives increased individual freedom. Your sense of purpose This book gave me an epiphany on practically every page. I learned about both leadership and science. I think studying them together helps improve understanding of both disciplines.

The notes I’ve posted below generated a lot of fodder for discussions in classes I taught.

Wheatley compared “strange attractors” to having a sense of purpose. (Strange attractors draw chaotic matter in and pull the system into its shape.) A sense of purpose gives increased individual freedom. Your sense of purpose distinguishes you from your environment. It empowers slaves to be free and freemen to be enslaved.

Positive vs. Negative Feedback

“Positive [feedback loops] amplify like the ear-piercing shrieks of microphones . . . the amplification is threatening.”

Positive (open) feedback loops—Use active exchange with their world for renewal. Open systems seek non-equilibrium to change and grow.

Negative (closed) feedback loops—watch for departures from the norm.

For negative feedback simply watch for substandard performance and make corrections.

For positive feedback, generate active exchange with others.

“Openness to environmental information over time spawns a firmer sense of identity, one that is less permeable to externally induced change. High levels of autonomy and identity result from staying open to information from the outside.” p. 92

“What gives power its charge, positive or negative, is the quality of the relationships…Love…then, is the most potent source of power we have available. Those who relate through coercion, create negative energy. Those who are open to others and who see others in their fullness create positive energy.” p. 39

Relationships—Create Harmony through respect. Relationship connections travel faster than light.

“In the quantum world, relationships are … all there is to reality … Particles come into being ephemerally, through interactions with other energy sources. We give names to each of these sources—physicists still identify neutrons, electrons, etc.—but they are ‘intermediate states in a network of interactions.’” p. 33

“Nothing exists independent of its relationship with something else.” p. 34

“In a traditional organizational chart, where we draw lines to connect roles, it would be a breakthrough to think of the lines as reaction channels, lines along which energy was transferred to facilitate the creation of new things.” p. 70

“Freedom and order turn out to be partners in generating viable, well-ordered autonomous systems.” p. 95

“Information is an organization’s primary source of nourishment; it is so vital to survival that its absence creates a strong vacuum. If info is not available, people make it up.” (rumors, misinformation) p. 107

“Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new connections from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines…” p. 113


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2

Nov 15, 2007

Reading this for work. So far, I'm not finding it to be deeply inspiring. I agree with the premise, but I think there's a generational difference in my response - I've always known that we need to start in our communities, do what needs to be done, even if we don't know how to do i.t
1

Nov 13, 2008

So far, this book has been tiresomely repetitive and the author is overly impressed by her personal 'voyage of discovery.'
5

May 09, 2017

Applying Quantum Physics to organizations... I am extrapolating the findings of the book beyond organizations and into families (acknowledged as organizations by many scholars) and parenting... What learnings of Quantum Physics can we take as parents for our interaction and "creation" of our children... I found a few...

"The quantum world asks us to contemplate other mysteries as well. It reveals the webs of connection that are everywhere, and tantalizes us with a question: How do influence and Applying Quantum Physics to organizations... I am extrapolating the findings of the book beyond organizations and into families (acknowledged as organizations by many scholars) and parenting... What learnings of Quantum Physics can we take as parents for our interaction and "creation" of our children... I found a few...

"The quantum world asks us to contemplate other mysteries as well. It reveals the webs of connection that are everywhere, and tantalizes us with a question: How do influence and change occur within a web? Physicists have observed a level of connectedness among seemingly separate particles, even if separated by huge distances. After 1930, a great debate raged among the premier physicists, especially between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. Could matter be affected by “non-local causes”? Could matter be changed by influences that travel faster than the speed of light? Einstein was so repelled at the idea of a universe where cause could happen at a distance that he designed a thought experiment with two other physicists (the EPR experiment) to disprove the whole idea. His experiment launched a lively debate in physics, and thirty years later, with the debate still raging, physicist John Bell constructed a mathematical proof to show that “instantaneous action-at-a-distance” could occur in the universe. Finally, in 1982 (and subsequently established in many other experiments), French physicist Alain Aspect conducted actual physical experiments proving that elementary particles are, indeed, affected by connections that exist invisibly across time and space (Gribbin 1984, 227ff). Here is one example of how action-at-a-distance is confirmed. Two electrons are first paired together or correlated. Tests are then conducted to determine whether such paired electrons, even when separated, will continue to act as one unified electron. Will their relationship survive at a distance? To determine whether these electrons behave as one, physicists can test their spin. Electrons spin along an axis, either up and down or side to side. However, being quantum phenomena, these axes do not preexist as objective reality. They exist only as potentials until the scientist decides on which axis to measure. There is no fixed spin to the electron; its spin appears based on what the scientist chooses to test for. The electrons respond to the scientist’s choice of measures. (If this is hard to comprehend, remember that the quantum realm is weird even to scientists.) Once two electrons have been paired, if one is observed to spin up, the other will spin down, or if one is observed to spin right, the other will spin left. In this experiment, the two paired electrons are separated. Theoretically, they could be across the universe. No matter the distance, at the moment one electron is measured for its spin—say that a vertical axis is chosen—the second electron will instantaneously display a vertical, but opposite, spin. How does this second electron, so far away, know which axis was chosen to measure? Formerly, scientists believed that nothing travels faster than the speed of light, yet these experiments seem to disconfirm that. One explanation that physicists offer is that the two electrons are linked by non-visible connections; they are, in fact, an indivisible whole that cannot be broken into parts, even when separated by space. When an attempt is made to measure them as discrete parts, scientists get stymied by the fact of their invisible connectedness." ...more
1

Jan 15, 2012

This is one of the worst books I've ever read. I wish that I could have that time back. The author doesn't understand the science to which she refers, constantly choosing fringe researchers (example: Bohm, for quantum mechanics), incorrectly explaining the principles, and focusing on only the few disciplines that support her views. The writing is excessively flowery, to the point that it obscures what she is trying to say. I read all of the one-star reviews on Amazon.com, just to check whether I This is one of the worst books I've ever read. I wish that I could have that time back. The author doesn't understand the science to which she refers, constantly choosing fringe researchers (example: Bohm, for quantum mechanics), incorrectly explaining the principles, and focusing on only the few disciplines that support her views. The writing is excessively flowery, to the point that it obscures what she is trying to say. I read all of the one-star reviews on Amazon.com, just to check whether I was missing some important contextual clue. I agreed with all of them. Don't waste your time or money. ...more
5

Oct 17, 2008

Leadership and the New Science is in my top five books of all time. I've read it several times over the last decade. Reading it for the first time was a validating experience for me. I had always felt I was a misfit for not buying into what I can now term as, "the newtonian" philosophies of other business owners. I go back to it now to remind me to stay the course.

This book will change the way you think about the world and about business.
5

Jan 24, 2019

A really lovely look at emergent theory and living through change. Not just for us organizational development folks but for anyone doing movement and organizing work. Got to keep gazing deep into those chasms.

A must for Emergent Strategy fans.
2

Dec 29, 2015

Her take on the Science, I found I disagreed with much of her interpretations. It sparked the imagination but I would not particularly recommend this book because her take on the science I could not agree with.
1

Sep 03, 2017

I found this book to be a bit ridiculous, and if you don't fully understand the physics behind something, then you really shouldn't use the concepts/graphs/etc. in your academic work.
4

Jul 08, 2009

Leadership and the New Science
Margaret Wheatley

Wheatley's book continually challenges us to rethink our metaphors of organization, leadership and change. She encourages us to step back to see things whole, to be curious and to be vividly aware of relationships at the heart of how things work. She argues that people do not need to be "motivated;" each of us has a deep longing for "community, meaning, dignity, purpose and love." If we could invite everyone and connect with that longing, we would Leadership and the New Science
Margaret Wheatley

Wheatley's book continually challenges us to rethink our metaphors of organization, leadership and change. She encourages us to step back to see things whole, to be curious and to be vividly aware of relationships at the heart of how things work. She argues that people do not need to be "motivated;" each of us has a deep longing for "community, meaning, dignity, purpose and love." If we could invite everyone and connect with that longing, we would restore possibility in our world.

Although her extended metaphors and poetic sidebars might annoy some readers, they serve to push our thinking outside of the conventional paths to re-see our role as leaders - and as Meg Wheatley reminds us, we are all potentially leaders, for leadership is a behaviour, not a role.
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0

Apr 03, 2016

Two sides of the coin. On the one hand, she is a big thinker and cites science (and Karl Weick) to support her statements that everything is part of a system, that we are in a time of paradigm shift, and that leadership is about giving people the power to self-organize and accomplish work. Leadership is not strategic planning, but strategic thinking. On the other hand, much of this is her own biases, it seems to me, bending and swooping to cherry pick quotes to support herself. I agree with much Two sides of the coin. On the one hand, she is a big thinker and cites science (and Karl Weick) to support her statements that everything is part of a system, that we are in a time of paradigm shift, and that leadership is about giving people the power to self-organize and accomplish work. Leadership is not strategic planning, but strategic thinking. On the other hand, much of this is her own biases, it seems to me, bending and swooping to cherry pick quotes to support herself. I agree with much of what she says, but it ain't science. I do agree with her statements on local change. There are a few quotes that support what we have tried to do in the EdD program. But I don't get why so many superlatives are lavished on this book unless those endorsers don't read much. So four stars if you haven't read much in leadership. Two stars if you have. Donated to library April 2016. ...more
5

Nov 30, 2010

If a person really put the ideas in this book to work, it could change their world. I read this book on a recommendation from the CEO of Nike
who used this as inspiration to re-structure his creative team. I was
interested. Loved the book. Gave it as a gift a couple of times but I guess I liked the book more than my friends did!
0

Jan 24, 2009

I just couldn't get into this book. Too "out there" for me. Maybe I'll give it another try once I've had a longer break from school...(probably not).
4

Aug 22, 2018

This book was assigned in my Foundations of Leadership class in my Master's of Organizational Leadership program.

This book was a fascinating and highly engaging read! The basic premise of the book is an analysis of scientific discoveries pertaining to systems and networks in the fields of quantum physics, chaos theory, etc. and drawing upon a number of these scientific principles and exploring how they can be applied to improve man-made organizations and systems. There were some very unusual This book was assigned in my Foundations of Leadership class in my Master's of Organizational Leadership program.

This book was a fascinating and highly engaging read! The basic premise of the book is an analysis of scientific discoveries pertaining to systems and networks in the fields of quantum physics, chaos theory, etc. and drawing upon a number of these scientific principles and exploring how they can be applied to improve man-made organizations and systems. There were some very unusual connections and fascinating insights made by the author. I think she is on to some good ideas. This book was definitely a thought-provoking, big idea kind of book. It is a big-picture, paradigm-shifting kind of book. It is very light on the specific prescriptions or applications of leadership. It is a lot more about introducing a different perspective about the world, organizations, and leadership. I am really glad I read it. I don't necessarily agree with every idea the author presented, but I think she offers a lot of great ideas that are very worth pondering, considering, and applying. ...more
3

Jan 28, 2019

I'm not quite sure how to rate this one - 3.5 stars, I guess. This book was recommended to me by Praveen Madan, CEO of Kepler's Bookstores and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Berrett-Koehler Publisher, as a book that had been particularly influential to his thinking about management.

Unlike any other business book I've read - the science definitely felt over my head and I found myself having to just absorb the analogies rather than understand them. But I also found this book to be profound, I'm not quite sure how to rate this one - 3.5 stars, I guess. This book was recommended to me by Praveen Madan, CEO of Kepler's Bookstores and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Berrett-Koehler Publisher, as a book that had been particularly influential to his thinking about management.

Unlike any other business book I've read - the science definitely felt over my head and I found myself having to just absorb the analogies rather than understand them. But I also found this book to be profound, delightfully poetic, challenging, and wise. There's no clear action plan here, but rather a call for a shift in awareness and mindset. Having worked for Shambhala Publications now for a few years I can also see that much of the author's thinking is inspired by Buddhism, Taoism, Aikido, and the work of Ken Wilber.

I would be interested in reading another Margaret Wheatley book and would love to hear her speak one day. A vast and fascinating mind. ...more
5

Apr 20, 2019

Written in 1999, it was before it's time. Wheatley is a harbinger of a type of organizational change that we are still only just beginning to scratch the surface of. I think this work will come into the fore over the coming years as organizations realize their need to evolve to deal with the ever-increasing rate of change that exists today.

As she points out in the book, new ideas emerge at the same time in different places. As Wheatley was coming to her realizations, Harrison Owen, Dee Hock, Written in 1999, it was before it's time. Wheatley is a harbinger of a type of organizational change that we are still only just beginning to scratch the surface of. I think this work will come into the fore over the coming years as organizations realize their need to evolve to deal with the ever-increasing rate of change that exists today.

As she points out in the book, new ideas emerge at the same time in different places. As Wheatley was coming to her realizations, Harrison Owen, Dee Hock, Richard T. Pascale, Mark Millemann, and Linda Gioja were coming to similar realizations around Chaos and organization. ...more
3

Jan 10, 2020

So this is my assessment of this book Leadership and the new science by Margaret J. Wheatley according to my 7 criteria:
1. Related to practice - 4 stars
2. It prevails important - 4 stars
3. I agree with the read - 4 stars
4. not difficult to read (as for non English native) - 3 stars
5. too long and boring story or every sentence is interesting - 3 stars
6. Learning opportunity - 3 stars
7. Dry and uninspired style of writing - Smooth style with humouristic and fun parts - 3 stars

Total 3.42 stars
2

Jul 08, 2018

An interesting book that really comes down to generating motivation for human-centric organization structures and systems approach to cooperative work. It is a combination of flakey and insightful, in about equal measures, with a lot of references to modern science tossed in to serve as inappropriate reference points. I'm not sure why this book is so highly regarded. Perhaps it was the right message for the right time two decades ago.
5

Feb 18, 2019

She offers an intriguing perspective about leadership through her understanding of ‘new science’.
2

Feb 12, 2018

Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (Paperback)
by Margaret J. Wheatley
3

Sep 01, 2018

she's got a point there, but i'm not certain why it's a book. could be as well a long read artile
4

Mar 01, 2019

A tour through how the dominant views in science effect our organisational structures, and how we are shifting into a new paradigm that is less organised and more natural.
4

Feb 22, 2016

Loves Wheatley's take on the inter-relatedness of things. Still relevant today for those interested in leadership theory.
5

Jan 18, 2012

"In motivation theory, attention is shifting from the use of external rewards to an appreciation for the intrinsic motivators that give us great energy. We are refocusing on the deep longings we have for community, meaning, dignity, purpose, and love in our organizational lives. We are beginning to look at the strong emotions of being human, rather than segmenting ourselves by believing that love doesn't belong at work, or that feelings are irrelevant in the organization. There are many attempts "In motivation theory, attention is shifting from the use of external rewards to an appreciation for the intrinsic motivators that give us great energy. We are refocusing on the deep longings we have for community, meaning, dignity, purpose, and love in our organizational lives. We are beginning to look at the strong emotions of being human, rather than segmenting ourselves by believing that love doesn't belong at work, or that feelings are irrelevant in the organization. There are many attempts to leave behind the view that predominated in the twentieth century, when we believed that organizations could succeed by confining workers to narrow roles and asking only for very partial contributions. As we let go of the machine model of organizations, and workers as replaceable cogs in the machinery of production, we begin to see ourselves in much richer dimensions, to appreciate our wholeness,, and hopefully, to design organizations that honor and make use of the great gift of who we humans are." (p. 14)

"The reduction into parts and the proliferation of separations has characterized not just organizations, but everything in the Western world during the past three hundred years. We broke knowledge into separate disciplines and subjects, built offices and schools with divided spaces, developed analytic techniques that focus on discrete factors, and even counseled ourselves to act in fragments, to use different 'parts' of ourselves in different settings.' (p. 29)

"Many former planning advocates now speak about strategic thinking rather than planning. They emphasize that organizations require new skills. Instead of the ability to analyze and predict, we need to know how to stay acutely aware of what's happening now, and we need to be better, faster learners from what just happened. Agility and intelligence are required to respond to the incessant barrage of frequent, unplanned changes. Jack Welch, legendary CEO of General Electric, says that in this modern world of constant flux, 'predicting is less important than reacting.'"

"We need fewer descriptions of tasks and instead learn how to facilitate PROCESS. We need to become savvy about how to foster relationships, how to nurture growth and development. All of us need to become better at listening, conversing, respecting one another's uniqueness, because these are essential for strong relationships. The era of the rugged individual has been replaced by the era of the team player. But this is only the beginning. The quantum world has demolished the concept that we are unconnected individuals. More and more relationships are in store for us, out there in the vast web of life." (p. 39)

"We need all of us out there, stating, clarifying, reflecting, modeling, filling all of space with the messages we care about. If we do that, a powerful field developes -- and with it, the wondrous capacity to organize into coherent, capable form." (p. 57)

"When we concentrate on individual moments or fragments of experience, we see only chaos. But if we stand back and look at what is taking shape, we see order. Order always displays itself as patterns that develop over time." (p. 118)

"The leader's role is not to make sure that people know exactly what to do and when to do it. Instead, leaders need to ensure that there is strong and evolving clarity about who the organization is. When this clear identity is available, it serves every member of the organization. Even in chaotic circumstances, individuals can make congruent decisions. Turbulence will not cause the organization to dissolve into incoherence." (p. 131)

and so much more! ...more

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