The dual nature of the intelligent organization
The dual nature of the intelligent organization becomes apparent when we discuss early XXth century physicists observing phenomena that appear to contradict each others. Light behaving as a particle in one experiment. Light behaving as a wave in another.
Quantum physic is a weird science.
But then, nature is weird. Until you start to understand it.
With a very open mind.
So these experiment we weird. Worse yet, light behaved differently if you observed it or not.
The act of observing a phenomena appeared to influence the outcome.
This is so weird !! Weirder than expected..even for a physicist !
But is it ?
Havent’t you ever observed an employee, a colleague, heck …a child or a spouse, expecting something to happen (usually something bad…) and voilà ! they just did it !
You then probably felt self-justified in spying the whole time. It was worth it ! It confirmed your worst doubt !
The pygmalion story, all over again, with a modern (or not so modern) twist !
But do we stop once in a while to wonder what would really have happened if we had simply let go ?
One of the star in quantum physics is a cat. It does not have a name. We do not really know if it is dead or alive but as the main character in a famous thought experiment conceived by Erwin Schrodinger in 1935.
Physicists are weird. Thought experiments are weird. But they are powerful !
So this is my twist on the original experiment. I removed the radioactive part and moved the ambiguity to the feline component of the set up.
The cat in this story is an imaginary cat in an imaginary box. This reminds me of the lamb in St-Exupéry’s box in Le petit Prince…But Schrodinger’s mind is more devious than the aviator’s in the children story. You see, the cat is not alone in the box ! There is a switch, tantalizingly present, forcing the cat to eventually trigger it. This will either release cat food or, oh how cruel ! a poisonous gas that would kill the cat.
As outside observer, we have no way of knowing which outcome the trigger will generate. We only know that the trigger has been activated (yes, this is a sophisticated thought experiment …there is a red light on top of the box when the cat activates the mechanism).
Here goes the red light !
The question is : is the cat dead or alive ?
This is a profound question as we have no way of knowing. Statistics tell us that we have a 50 % chance of finding a cat cadaver inside the box or a well-fed but constipated cat.
But until we look by opening the box … we do not know. There is this ominous potential of death in equilibrium with the glorious possibility of life (and constipation threatening to overcome the proverbial cats’ curiosity with yours !).
The cat is therefore neither dead or alive but becomes a glorious statistical potential for life.
At all times before the activation of the trigger, the cat is a potential. It is its own Damocles sword hanging over its head (or the box).
Similarly most people in most organizations have in themselves the potential for greatness … or failure.
Their light can behave as a particle or as a wave.
They can behave as part of the system, following the organization’s mission and vision, or act individually to pursue their own goals and objectives.
Each person in any organization lives a dual life. Being an employee, following orders or being driven by a clear mission and role and, at the same time, thinking and living their other life at home. How many times were you surprised, astonished and profoundly affected by the discovery of one of your colleague/employee’s story in the newspaper : oh my God, HE is a triathlete, SHE is a mayor, HE is the president of the Alzheimer whatever association, SHE has built from scratch a …., HE is the top players in such and such team, SHE is the first violinist in that orchestra, HE as a master degree in history of latin America…the list goes on.
The dual nature of the intelligent organization is not a surprise !
Everyone has a dual life…
Some are simple, some are complex, some are joyful, some are sad beyond belief.
But everyone is more, much more, than just a part of your organization.
I love the concept of holons (by the way… this is a weird word and any autocorrect function on a computer will simply not accept it and replace it with anything from holiness to hollow…). Holons were created by Arthur Koestler in his 1967 novel “Ghosts in the machine”. They are part of the whole and the whole itself. This goes one step further than the holistic view. Each part acts autonomously but also as part of the whole. This is a great concept to explain how intelligent organizations self-regulate. It also explains why any individual in any company will act of his own will whether or not his boss is there to control his actions.
As long as the mission is clear.
Quantum physics can help us understand our organization better.
The cat’s demise in the box is NOT the only option. Your employees’ unexplored potential CAN make a difference.
But you must carefully look for the right things. Beware, quantum physics also tells us that the observer can alter reality…..beware what you wish for… you might likely find it.
The dual nature of the intelligent organization is a fact. Our employees, our colleagues will always have a choice.
A definition of intelligence I like states that
Capacity of a living organism
- to adapt to a new situation
- to understand
- to solve problems
- to give meaning to its environment
- to act wisely
I believe this fit nicely with what an intelligent organization should do.
After all, the measure of the intelligent organization is quite simple, as Gifford Pinchot used to say : one brain per person.
Are you using it all ?
And if not, what will YOU do about it ?
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