ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

September 1998


Standing Your Ground In The Face Of Change

Turning Local Government Into A Business

Stop Trying To Be "Friendly" And "Courteous"

It's A Small World Afterall
Lucent's Performance


My Way Is The Highway
by Peter Block

What's So Super About Collaboration?
by Michael Finley


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


Book Reviews With a Twist

“Rewiring the Corporate Brain” by Danah Zohar

“This ain’t rocket science ya know!”

We’ve all heard that phrase before. Matter of fact we’ve probably all uttered it a time or two when someone went a little further than we thought was necessary. So, now we have a book by Danah Zohar, a physicist and philosopher. If the rocket science approach to business was overkill, what will the quantum science approach be?

Well, I found Zohar’s approach to be right on. She shows us how the rocket science approach is but one model for organizations—one that may not give us the right answers today. Indeed business may be more complex today than rocket science—so new models based on the new science (quantum mechanics, relativity, chaos and complexity) are in order.

“Rewiring the Corporate Brain,” shows how the old laws based on Newtonian physics may be failing us and how the new laws of the new science offer an alternative. Zohar argues that much of today’s management theory was shaped by the thinking of Sir Isaac Newton (remember, he discovered gravity when he was bonked by an apple). In turn, people like Frederick Taylor were influenced by Newton’s thinking and applied his mechanical, laws governed thinking to business. The new science, on the other hand, has discovered a very different world where the old laws don’t fit. The term quantum leap itself implies, “A leap from one kind of reality to another ... from a world we understood and could manage to one where at first nothing makes sense.” That sure sounds a lot like my world.
Zohar compares and contrasts eight principles of the new science with their old science counterparts.

Favorite New Term: Quantum Leader. “A quantum leader would cultivate his or her own inner light and individual potential, but at the same time be always aware that a truly creative leader draws a great deal of insight and inspiration from the unexpressed qualities of the group being led.” This approach allows for both top-down leadership and learning from the rest of the organization.

Favorite Quote: “A quantum organization would recognize that people seek meaning, that we transcend our frustrations and our limitations with dreams. Living systems are evolutionary systems, always reaching beyond themselves to new possibility.”

Message I’ll Remember Five Years From Now: On business consultants as servant leaders: “They lead with listening, with intuition, with gut feeling, and they lead in service to a deeper vision than either they or those whom they lead can at first articulate. Such leadership requires a high tolerance for uncertainty, for ambiguity, and for loose structure that allows the dynamics of a situation to play itself through.”

“Rewiring the Corporate Brain” will stretch your thinking and give you new insight into how the universe and world of work are in-tune with each other. It presents a new model for organizations in complex times. The old laws don’t always work for us. We need new models that allow us to deal with complexity and understand relationships.
So, next time someone says, “This ain’t rocket science,” in all likelihood it’s probably more complex. What is required is the ability to see the situation in quantum terms—more grays than blacks and whites with a need for both—and thinking instead of either-or thinking.

“Rewiring the Corporate Brain,” Danah Zohar, 1997, Barrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, Calif., ISBN 1-57675-022-1, $27.95, 172 pages.
Reviewed by: Steve Gibbons, assistant director, Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, Iowa.

September '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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