Product Thoughts, Productivity

You should learn more physics. Really.

photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeflood/

What? Why would you want to teach quantum mechanics to your business? Why is it important to know anything about Physics? And ow. My brain hurts. (So really, it’s about seeing order in chaotic systems, and understanding that – at a fundamental level – that equilibrium is not always a good thing.)

If you read one book this year, you should consider reading Leadership and the New Science by Margaret Wheatley (thanks to Jeff Turner for the recommendation). Wheatley wonders, “Why do projects take so long, develop ever-greater complexity, yet too often fail to achieve any significant results?” One answer, she finds, is to review recent findings in the scientific world and to apply those learnings to management science.

What does this mean to me, you say? It means three things:

Equilibrium is not always good for your business (or your life).

Wikipedia states that a low entropy situation has a lower degree of randomness. You might think that this is a benefit, but Wheatley argues that it also reduces the opportunity of change.

Uncertainty is a given. Deal with it.
Uncertainty. The classical case is embodied by the Schroedinger’s Cat paradox — in which you cannot know whether a cat is dead or alive inside a closed box — and suggests that decisions cannot be prefigured as they are contingent upon our own actions. Make your best guess, and go for it.

Systems are not closed, and neither is your business.
It would be nice to make a model that perfectly described your business, in which input A could be combined with work B to create output X (and, of course, profits $$$$). The reality, as Wheatley shows us, is that systems are chaotic. Within that chaos (commonly known as the “Butterfly Effect”, there is order — but a different kind of “order” than the kind we normally expect. It means that systems will order themselves — it doesn’t necessarily mean that the outcomes will be the ones we expect.

Remember, standing still while acting does not necessarily result in progress.  If you increase the energy in your interactions (meet someone, read something, act!) you will have a greater chance of doing interesting things.  The classical and new models posed by scientists present an interesting new framework to think about how to act (and how to avoid inaction as a choice).

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