Quantum Leadership

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

Dec 12

Welcome to the Quantum Age

Geek alert. In the next few lines I’ll be talking about Newtonian and Quantum physics. My challenge, is to make it fascinating…

Over 400 years ago, thanks to long bouts of ‘deep work’, a bad-tempered Isaac Newton changed the world.  He defined principles explaining how much of the world behaved. He even invented the mathematics to support it. Magic was real. We could now calculate, predict, and create how the physical world interacts. The benefit (short term anyway) to humanity was vast, machines, industry and invention flourished. Culturally we had a new narrative. The universe could be 100% understood, predicted and controlled. It is like a machine. Welcome the deterministic world.

It was good times until just over 100 years ago when scientists started finding obscure cases where Newtonian physics didn’t work. We found our universe consisted of a whole new realm that didn’t behave as we thought it should.  At the quantum level things had their own set of rules.  Bizarre kinds of not really rules, rules.  My favourite is the ‘uncertainty’ principle.  You can measure the speed or location of a quantum particle but not both.  Measuring something changes it.  In this world everything is a complex system, nothing totally as it seems.  

What has this all got to do with leadership?  Lot’s… you see many people and the organisations they create, operate with a Newtonian deterministic narrative.  One that says we can control and predict exactly. 

It’s time to catch up with over 100 years of physics and upgrade this idea.  Leadership, people, societies and our environment are complex adaptive systems. More a forest, less a machine. Let’s celebrate this, stimulate the systems, sense the patterns and respond to them while recognising we can’t fully predict or even less, fully control them. This gives us all freedom to be more human, more part of something rather than make us central to it.  Maybe even, it’s our final circle of belonging?

Thanks for reading and catch you in the new year

Carl

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