In 1992 Margaret Wheatley wrote a book, Leader and the New Science. I had it in my bookshelf for probably 10 to 15 years but never got around to reading it, that is, until now.
I am amazed at how much she writes is what I present in my book The Living Organization®. She describes how organizations are really collections of interrelated relationships. And output is defined more by these relationships than the activity itself. She explains that we are all operating in fields of energy and that these fields heavily determine our discrete actions.
She cites a wonderful experiment she did with one of her retail chain clients on customer service. She took a number of the employees to visit different stores. Afterwards they compared notes of what they had experienced. She writes:
“To a person, we agreed that we could “feel” good customer service just by walking into the store. We tried to get more specific by looking at visual cures, merchandise layouts, facial expressions – but none of that could explain the sure sense we had when we walked in the store that we would be treated well. Something else was going on. Something else was in the air. We could feel it; we just couldn’t describe why we felt it.”
Two decades ago Margaret Wheatley wrote about the field of energy I call Context, and described the power of that field to not only impact the behavior of the store employees, but to actually define it. It wasn’t the training on good customer service or the type of Activity they performed, it was the energy of the Context field that created the experience.
This is not the only book I have come across recently that was written ten to twenty years ago and describes in a variety of ways the notion that organization are living systems. Living entities that produce results, not by the rules of machines, but by the laws that govern nature and all living organisms.
Two decades of insight by thought leaders who became popular for a short period of time. I remember when Margaret Wheatley’s book first came out; it was all the rage. Even today people who have read both of our books comment on the similarities.
Two decades and we have not learned. Two decades and we still cling to the notion that we can predict and control the behaviors of our organizations like machines. Two decades of wisdom ignored as if it was a fly buzzing around our heads. Ever present but annoying as hell.
Is now the time for us to heed this wisdom? Did we need time to digest it? Did we need a collapse of what was successful to bring us to the brink, to seek out something new? Perhaps what was missing was the practical implementation, ways we can put these brave new ideas into operation.
Or perhaps we need a new breed of leader. One who was raised with the notion that our world is more than the simple clock-like machine of Newtonian understanding; but one filled with the probabilistic nature of Quantum Physics. Or perhaps we need to wait for leaders to have the courage to step into a new way of thinking and acting. To have the conviction that there is clearly a better way and are willing to try out a new approach.
I can’t help but wonder if The Living Organization® will become that new approach, adopted widely by many organization leaders or whether it too will sit on bookshelves for the next 10 -15 years waiting for its time to come.
Are you ready to finally put into practice the breakthrough understanding of how organizations truly create results, wisdom that has entered our business thinking over two decades ago? Or will you remain rooted in a paradigm that gives us comfort for its familiarity but proves, over and over again, inadequate to address the challenges of the 21st century?
For more information on The Living Organization model visit our website and download our whitepaper and e-books. And look for our upcoming book this Sept.