“Taylorism,” the basis for all modern management theory, took its inspiration and its organizational model from the ideas and principles that defined seventeenth-century Newtonian physics. Just as Newton saw the universe4 as a giant machine, so Taylor urged the organization should function as a well-organized machine, divided into atomistic separate “divisions,” controlled from the top, and organized with well-defined bureaucratic rules. Quantum Management, by contrast, takes its inspiration from quantum physics and the basic principles according to which all quantum systems organize themselves. It proposes that the organization is best understood as a conscious, living system. Living quantum systems (all of organic life, including ourselves) are called “complex adaptive systems” (CADs). Such systems are holistic, constantly evolving and redefining themselves through co-creative dialogue between the constituent elements and co-creative dialogue with the environment. CADs are also self-organizing, and any imposition of control from outside or “the top” alienates the constituent parts and destroys the creativity of the system. Because Quantum Management is dealing with human systems, a necessary part of the theory argues that the purposes, values, aspirations, and motivations of people working in an organization, and the emergent organizational culture, must be seen as part of its system dynamics. This chapter will contrast Taylorism & its Newtonian roots with Quantum Management & its roots in quantum physics and complexity science. The chapter also lays foundations for understanding why material presented in Part II, The Quantum Self/Employee, is necessary for effective management thinking.
“Taylorism,” the basis for all modern management theory, took its inspiration and its organizational model from the ideas and principles that defined seventeenth-century Newtonian physics. Just as Newton saw the universe as a giant machine, so Taylor urged the organization should function as a well-oiled machine, divided into atomistic separate “divisions,” controlled from the top, and organized with well-defined bureaucratic rules. Quantum Management, by contrast, takes its inspiration from quantum physics and the basic principles according to which all quantum systems organize themselves. It proposes that the organization is best understood as a conscious, living system, as a biological system. Living quantum systems (all of organic life, including ourselves) are called “complex adaptive systems” (CADs), and are featured in the breakthrough work of complexity science. Complexity science itself is an offspring of the larger quantum paradigm. CADs are holistic, constantly evolving and redefining themselves through co-creative dialogue between the constituent elements and co-creative dialogue with the external environment. CADs are also self-organizing, and any imposition of control from outside or from “the top” alienates the constituent parts and destroys the creativity of the system. Thus, we will see in the next chapter when we look at the implementation of Quantum Management Theory in actual business practice that it demands both hands-off, non-directive leadership and the removal of stifling bureaucracy.
Because Quantum Management is dealing with human systems, a necessary part of the theory argues that the purposes, values, aspirations, and motivations of people working in an organization, and the emergent organizational culture, must be seen as part of its system dynamics. This is an important way in which both quantum physics itself and Quantum Management differ from Newtonian physics and Taylorian management. In ancient Greek philosophy, Aristotle’s theory of causation included a Final Cause, or purpose, when explaining any action of event, and the notion that even physical systems have purpose embraces the implication of associated motivations and values. But in both modern Western philosophy and in Newton’s mechanistic physics, which assumed a Cartesian separation between mind and body, physical systems were thought of only in terms of their form, function, and outcome. In Taylorian management, the company has the form and function of a machine, and its only desired outcome is the generation of profit. Quantum physics, by contrast, eradicates the sharp boundary between mind and matter, between the outcome of an experiment and the consciousness, or purpose, of the scientist who conducts it. Thus we will see that a quantum company leader begins by asking, “What is our purpose? What are our values? What motivations must drive our people?” and that purpose, while always including the necessary outcome of generating a profit, is based on wider moral and ethical considerations that derive from the company’s responsibility to its employees, customers, and the surrounding environment, both social and natural (Fig. 4.1).
Human Systems Thrive Best as Natural Systems
The Taylorian company, like everything else in the Newtonian paradigm, saw itself as an artificial human construct distanced from Nature and its ways. Indeed, these companies viewed Nature as a resource, something to be conquered and exploited, something to be used. They also saw themselves as islands onto themselves, each company pursuing its own best profit interests and oblivious to both the needs of its own employees and to those of the surrounding communities (local, national, and global) and to any impact on the earth’s environment. Even customer needs were a resource to be manipulated and exploited. And the company at its best was a well-oiled machine controlled by a central mechanism (command and control leadership from the top and mediated through a system of tight bureaucratic structures and rules). Everything and everyone in the Taylorian company was in its place, and that place was determined by its usefulness to the single-minded pursuit of maximum profit and shareholder value (Fig. 4.1).
But now we see these Taylorian companies struggling, and often failing, in a world defined by uncertainty, rapid change, and an undeniable connectivity with supposed externalities like climate and economic instability, health pandemics, and the socio-economic conditions in “distant” regions and countries—all of which affect customer choice, demand, and availability. Internally, these companies are also struggling with employees, often now better educated, demanding not just better pay and working conditions but also intangibles like purpose, meaning, and more scope to realize their own potential. Employee attrition rates are high and expensive and strikes disruptive. Companies designed to create and maintain siloed separation internally and assuming a safe distance from everything around them cannot remain sustainable in today’s world of Zero Distance.
The quantum paradigm teaches us both that everything is entangled with everything else and that all things are systems, systems within systems, within systems. We human systems are not distinct constructs set apart from and different to Nature, but rather in every way part of Nature and bound up with the health, balance, & and vitality of natural systems themselves. If natural systems become unbalanced and fall ill, our human bodies fall ill, and then those same human bodies, now in the role of employees and customers, cease to meet the needs of companies and the economies that rely on them. And so the companies “fall ill.” When companies fail, jobs and tax revenue are lost, economies suffer, the quality of individual lives and the social structures of communities suffer, and the entire human ecosystem comes under strain. Everything is connected to everything, every element of the system depends upon the balance and health of the system as a whole. Nature “knows” that, and our company leaders need to learn it, and respond accordingly.
Quantum Management recognizes that human systems like companies function best when led, managed, and structured to function like natural, biological systems. Its defining principles for achieving this are the same defining principles that make CADs adaptive, sustainable, and creative. These are the eight quantum principles outlined in the previous chapter and then expressed as they are in all living quantum systems. The promise of Quantum Management is that if human systems like companies follow the organizing principles of CADs, they, too, will achieve sustainability and creative evolution by adapting to both internal and external system cues through co-creative dialogue between elements of the internal company system (employee needs, skills, and potential, leadership, company structure and culture, R&D research) and elements of the external environmental system (technological developments, the socio-political environment, the earth’s environment, available resources, customer needs, and market potentialities). In short, quantum organizations can be managed in a completely scientific way.
The Defining Principles of Quantum Management
Self-Organizing: The quantum universe itself is self-organizing. There is no top-down “blueprint” that laid out a program for cosmic creation and evolution. Each new creative relationship that is formed evolves out of already existing relationships and then takes its shape in response to the surrounding environment. There is a direction, or “way” (“purpose”) of cosmic evolution that leads to the creation of ever greater complexity, more order, and more information. Closer to home, the complex adaptive systems (CADs) that complexity science has discovered underpin all organic life, including our own human bodies, form themselves according to their own inner logic, and then evolve in a self-organizing, adaptive way that ensures both survival (sustainability) and growth, or creativity. Each element of the system is “attuned” to all other elements and constantly adapts to both internal system changes and needs and to external factors in the surrounding environment, such as temperature, available sunlight, and available resources. These organic CADs embrace all the basic design principles of quantum physics itself and are, for all practical purposes, living quantum systems.
As I said above, so long as a CAD is allowed to live and evolve in its own self-organizing way, it will always sustain itself and grow in accordance with its designated life-span. That is its “purpose.” But if such a system is subjected to any kind of outside control, the constituent elements of the system become “alienated” from each other and the system loses its own self-organizing capacity. It then becomes ill, and usually dies. There is no bureaucracy in Nature, no top-down control.
Complexity theorists are now applying the principles of CADs to human systems like the economy, companies, and cities, indicating that these all function best when left to self-organize and evolve in a naturally adaptive way. This is critical to Quantum Management Theory as it discusses the leadership, structure, and management of quantum companies, quantum societies, and quantum cities, and advocates ridding these systems of top-down control and bureaucratic structure. This means that one important principle of quantum leadership is, as I have said: hands off!
As we will see more deeply in later chapters, the key elements in human systems are the purposes, values, and motivations of their human constituents. If these are positive, they will pump positive energy into the system and ensure its sustainability and growth. The system, say a company, will be internally harmonious (coherent) and will naturally and flexibly adapt to challenges and opportunities in its external environment. If, however, the purposes, values, and motivations driving a company’s activities are negative, the resulting negative energy being poured into the system will lead to internal disharmony (decoherence) and its external adaptive capacity will diminish. Thus any attempt to implement Quantum Management Theory in a real company (or city or society) will involve work with purposes, values, and motivations—both in leadership circles and in every individual employee (or citizen). Such things, obviously, are aspects of a company’s culture, and therefore in the creation of a quantum company, building a strong and positive company culture is a priority consideration.
Holistic, System Thinking: We have seen that in the quantum universe, everything is connected to everything, “entangled” with everything, and a principle of Zero Distance applies in every quantum system and in the cosmic quantum system as a whole. We are always part of a larger, systemic whole, and both the driving principles and the needs of that whole are within each of us. If we want to be in tune with ourselves, we must be in tune with the larger whole, and in its own self-organizing wisdom, that whole will be in tune with our own real needs. We are always “elements” of a system, and if we are to lead our lives in a way that ensures sustainability and growth, we must do so with system intelligence.
In the case of companies, the internal system comprises all people who work in the company, their skills, knowledge, and intelligence, and their potential—for constant adaptation, discovery, creativity, and growth. The sustainability and growth of the company are ensured only if the best interests of all who work in it are ensured—their health and safety, their remuneration, and their ability to find meaning in their work that ensures productivity and loyalty to the system. The whole company system suffers if any member suffers, and all members will suffer if the company system as a whole fails to achieve sustainability and growth. Quantum holism and systems thinking gives real meaning to the expression, “We are all in this together.”
But any company system is also part of, is embedded within, larger, external systems. The Taylorian notion that a company is an island onto itself and that its leader need only consider the interests of its shareholders is as out of date as Newtonian atomism itself. A company’s external systems (the trendy word is its “ecosystem”) obviously require consideration of customer satisfaction and loyalty, which depend upon both product and service quality and affordability. But post-Covid experience is bringing home now to even the most tunnel-visioned business leaders that other externalities like the health and stability of society, indeed the health and stability of the entire global community, the vagaries of climate change, population migration patterns and regulations, global stability and cooperation, and a need for some degree of cooperation even with competitors all have a direct impact on a company’s viability and success. Some business leaders are almost screaming today, “I have a company to run. Don’t tell me it is my business to save the world!” But it is a central argument of this book, indeed a central reason for this book, that in the Zero Distance world of our Quantum Age, the way leaders run their companies does have a very large role to play in whether our world system as a whole will experience sustainability and growth or suffer illness, and possibly death.
So yes, it is the primary responsibility of a business leader to run his/her company and to make it profitable, but holism tells us the way this is done, the purposes, values, and motivations embedded in the company culture and then reflected in company decisions and performance, the questions about who and what the company serves, and what role the company is playing in the larger ecosystem, all come back to impact on company success and profitability. Just as the whole company thrives only if each person who works in the company thrives, and vice versa, so too a company will realize sustainability and growth only if the whole world system of which it is a part thrives. “We are all in this together.”
Relationships Matter (Contextualism): We saw in the last chapter that the quantum universe is not a universe of cause and effect, but rather a universe both created and governed by relationships. And I commented there that instead of asking, “What caused our problem?” company leaders should ask, “What is wrong with our relationships?” If company strategists have a desired outcome or goal, they should ask, “What relationships do we need to build to achieve this?” In today’s interconnected and interdependent world that makes an everyday reality of zero distance quantum entanglement, close, cooperative, win/win relationships are necessary to system success—both internally and externally. Thus Quantum Management calls upon companies to rid themselves of borders and boundaries (siloed departments and functions), rid themselves of hierarchy, and rid themselves of the stranglehold of bureaucracy—to break out of Weber’s “iron cage.”. I am reminded of the stirring lyrics of a Door’s song that cry out, “Break on through, break on through, break on through to the other side!” This, too, has structural implications for how to implement Quantum Management. How do we design a Zero Distance company?
Experiment! (Heisenberg’s “Ask Questions”): In quantum physics, remember, questions create their own answers. I, the questioner (a scientist making a measurement), exist in the Explicate Order of here and now actuality. But my question will pluck out one possible answer from the infinite potential of the quantum Implicate Order. Ask a different question (set up my measuring apparatus in a different way), and I will get a different possible answer. Thus, the more questions I ask, the more answers, or new actualities/outcomes, I will create. Asking a question is like dropping an empty bucket into a well and then bringing up a bucketful of water.
All science itself is driven by the activities of ceaselessly asking questions and then seeking answers to these questions through ceaseless experiments. Drawing from this lesson, scientific Quantum Management advises people in companies constantly to ask many questions. These questions may take the form of thought experiments in forming an array of possible decisions or strategies, or they may be actual experiments with new products, services, markets, or supply chains. Pursuing multiple questions in this way not only stokes creativity and innovation, but of course it also spreads risk. If a company puts an array of products or services out to an array of trial markets, it is not “putting all its eggs in one basket.” The same is true with imagining an array of possible decisions or strategies. The future is uncertain, black swans are frequent, and market taste can be fickle. Better to have ready cache of responses to these uncertain outcomes, thus thriving on uncertainty rather than fearing it. Achieving this is the central reason that leaders are now talking about making their companies agile. This Quantum Management principle has implications for the best way to structure a quantum company, which we will explore in greater depth in the next chapter when we discuss how to implement Quantum Management in a practical business model.
Get the Energy Right: The quantum universe and every existing thing within it, including ourselves and our social systems, is made of energy. My argument in this book is that companies are energy systems. Any energy system can get blocked or out of balance, and this can happen in companies. In Chinese traditional medicine, the human body is viewed as a “chi” or energy system, and the purpose of acupuncture treatment is to clear blockages in the flow of chi, and thus to restore health. We cannot apply acupuncture needles to our company systems, but we can do the equivalent by recognizing the “map” of energy flow in a company, noticing vital points in the system where this energy may be blocked, and then working out why it has become so. In the universe itself there is both a source of negative, destructive energy, entropy, which pulls systems apart and dissipates their order into chaos, and a source of positive, creative energy that causes new relationships to form and then out of these new order and new information to be created. In thermodynamic systems, order is born out of chaos, so even negative energy, if properly channeled and transformed, plays a creative role. We will see in Chapter 6 that psychologists and counselors who do “shadow work” realize that less attractive features of our personalities can be sources of positive transformation.
In human social systems like companies and societies, the motivations that drive our behavior are the energy drivers of the system. Negative motivations like greed, fear, or anger can dissipate a company’s energy system and thus cause dysfunction, and when we look in detail at The Scale of Motivations in Chapter 8, we will see that such negative motivations dominate the cultures of business-as-usual companies. But in quantum companies where all employees are aligned with the company’s own sense of positive purpose and higher values, greed can become inner power, fear can become mastery, and anger can become a desire to cooperate. In short, by getting all members of the company system practicing/promoting a collective sense of purpose and values, negative energy can be transformed into positive energy, and dysfunction into synchrony and success. The company then functions as a CAD, becoming both sustainable and creative. Bringing about such energy transformation and thus smooth system energy flow is a critical priority of Quantum Management. It requires both initial and then constant attention to raising and keeping employee and leadership motivations on the positive end of the scale, always noticing and understanding when and why these fall back into being negative.
It is also the case that companies share an energy field with their customers or users, and even with the wider societies in which they are doing business. If employee morale or motivation is low, this negative energy will impact on customer response and satisfaction, both through poorer customer service and lower quality goods or services. Equally, because all people who work in companies are also members of wider society, social disquiet, unrest, or a sense of collective depression will impact on company morale and thus function. Companies may be able to combat such social contamination by creating a strong internal culture of cooperation, trust, and positive achievement, and then this in turn can flow back into society as a healing force, just as one very positive, upbeat person can energize and motivate a group of listless people. Remember, in our quantum world, everything is connected to everything, and thus everything impacts everything else.
No Unimportant People: As is equally true in the participatory quantum universe, in individual quantum systems, and in CADs, every element of the system has its unique and important role. It has its purpose in the system. If any element were missing, the system would be different, and might become dysfunctional. Try to imagine an atom without protons, or a human body without kidneys. They would not survive. As complexity scientist Geoffrey West says, “Changing just one component of a CAS without fully understanding its multilevel spatiotemporal dynamics usually leads to unintended consequences.”Footnote 1
The equivalent principle in Quantum Management is that there are no unimportant people, no “less important” jobs. This is just one important sense in which quantum companies are non-hierarchical. The CEO would be lost without his/her PA, without his/her secretary or driver. Their office would be an unsightly and dusty mess without its cleaner, and trips to the toilet would be unpleasant if these were not cleaned. Everyone in the company would go hungry without the cook, and the cook could not function unless there were people to wash the dishes. And ironically, it is often these “little people,” these “invisible people” that know or notice things their “superiors” don’t. They overhear conversations, they witness events and behavior, sometimes they even envisage solutions to problems or have ideas that would make the whole company system function more effectively. If included in the company’s mission and sense of purpose, if their value and their potential are recognized, they can be a glue that holds the company together. And the same is true in a quantum society. If “the people” are sound, the society will prosper.
A Sense of Purpose: The quantum universe has a clear sense of direction. By constantly creating new relationships between constituent elements, it is always creating new order and new information, always growing richer and realizing new potentialities. CADs, too, have a clear sense of direction. They want to sustain themselves while constantly evolving, or growing. The Quantum Management equivalent of this drive toward growth is found in a company’s sense of purpose. Why does this company exist? What is this company for? What is its mission? Whom or what does it serve? Companies that have a clearly defined sense of purpose that answers such questions have integrity and meaning. Their people, though numerous, and their activities, though varied, share a common culture and common goals, they “pull together” like the metallic elements in a magnetic field. A sense of purpose permeates every person, activity, service, and product in a company in the same way that the ground state energy field of the Quantum Vacuum permeates every existing thing in the universe. It is the “sea” upon which all boats sail, with their compasses pointing to true North. Like the Vacuum itself, this is a sea of potentiality, the font of the company’s growth and evolution into the future. It is also the brand with which customers or users will identify and to which they will give their loyalty. In a quantum society, too, it is a shared sense of meaning and purpose that binds the society together and drives its energy. It gives its flag meaning and grounds its many customs.
Finally, as I said in the Introduction, Quantum Management is not just another theory of management. In the first place, it is a new paradigm for management. But it is also a philosophy of life and a new philosophy of leadership, founded on values and moral principles, a way of life, that underpins an entirely different way of thinking about what it means to be a person, an employee, a leader, a citizen. It changes how we view the organization, and even how we think about the nature of work itself.
QM is meaningful management;
QM is dynamic management;
QM is agile management
QM is ethical management;
QM is purposeful management;
QM is zero distance management (Fig. 4.2).
Geoffrey West, Scale, p. 204.
© 2022 The Author(s)
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Zohar, D. (2022). What Is Quantum Management?. In: Zero Distance. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-7849-3_4
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore
Print ISBN: 978-981-16-7848-6
Online ISBN: 978-981-16-7849-3