By Martin Vogel
Book review: Leadership and the New Science by Margaret Wheatley
Between the mysterious, almost inconceivable science of quantum physics and the mundane experience of working in a large organisation it would be hard to think of realms that are further apart. So Leadership and the New Science, by Margaret Wheatley, which seeks to apply insights derived from contemporary science to organisational life, is a book I approached with some scepticism. What possible relevance to the world of work could be found in the fundamental science of how matter functions below the level of the atom or how everything in the universe is inter-connected? These seem such big and incomprehensible questions that daily life is able to get along just fine without reference to them.
Reading the book, though, I soon realised that it was precisely because my thinking was shaped by the insights of traditional science that I couldn’t see the relevance of looking at quantum mechanics. If the world is more complex and mysterious than traditional science described, why is management still drawing on analogies informed by eighteenth and nineteenth century concepts. Might not organisations be more complex and mysterious than traditional management theory describes? By the time I’d finished the book, I had the impression that it had come about half a century too late.