Leadership and the New Science - Margaret J Wheatley.
Leadership and the New ScienceIn writing this review I face the challenge of maintaining the illusion of objectivity.

As I read through the book I became convinced that Margaret and I were twins separated at birth. This is the book that I could have written, and in a sense have written through presentations and talks. It has also given me the shape of a book which I now must write.

As you may now expect, I enjoyed the book immensely and heartily recommend it to anyone wishing to challenge the way they see things, frustrated at the failure of current approaches to improvement or bemused by a world that fails to make any real sense.

The ‘new science’ of the title are the advances in physics, biology, chemistry, quantum physics and elsewhere that reflect a change in understanding about how the world works.

Underpinning the book Margaret uses the contrast between the perspectives of this new science and that of traditional or Newtonian Science.

Her argument is that Newtonian Science served a purpose, but was always founded on compromise. A Newtonian view of the world is one appropriate to understanding the world through static snapshots and approximations. It creates a world that is separated and disconnected, a world based on prediction and knowing and on clearly defined roles of cause and effect.

Modern scientific thinking increasingly recognises the interconnected nature of the world, the reality that nothing exists in isolation, that cause and effect are illusions that exist only in a dissected world, and that we inhabit a world in which we must forsake certainty and understand probabilities.

Margaret asserts that in attempting to give itself credence Business Management has adopted the artifacts of science, the techniques of measurement and of analysis. But this scientific approach is deeply rooted in a Newtonian view of the world, a view that is increasingly irrelevant as the world becomes ever more deeply interconnected.

I’m not going to describe the arguments presented by the book. If you’ve been stirred by attending talks that I’ve given, or intrigued by articles in previous copies of this newsletter you will find much to intrigue, inspire and provoke you within its pages all written in an engaging, poetic and accessible style.

If you are looking for some quick answers, tools and techniques, or wish to remain cosy in your current business thinking, this is a book to avoid. If however you need room on your bookshelf, this might convince you to discard your current library of business books and perhaps your current thinking.

Steve Unwin
March 2009