Innovation as a practice requires a diverse spread of different kinds of thinking.
In the right context analytical thinking is often appropriate, on other occasions it is better to apply systems thinking to a problem.
It is the skill and experience of the innovation practitioner, coupled with their learned understanding of what kind of problem they are faced with, which dictates which is more applicable for any given challenge.
Taking this to an even deeper level for management is a fascination with the concepts offered by quantum theory.
Look - not for one second would we declare that we understand quantum theory or are so knowledgeable on the subject that we can wield the science around like He-Man whips around his broadsword, but a curious attempt to learn a bit more about quantum theory does seem to hold incredible value for the better management of teams.
In an effort to do just that; Italian physicist, Carlo Rovelli, has a new book out called Helgoland - which is just the ticket to start exploring this fascinating subject a bit more.
From the Amazon blurb:
In June 1925, twenty-three-year-old Werner Heisenberg, suffering from hay fever, had retreated to the treeless, wind-battered island of Helgoland in the North Sea in order to think. Walking all night, by dawn he had wrestled with an idea that would transform the whole of science and our very conception of the world.
In Helgoland Carlo Rovelli tells the story of the birth of quantum physics and its bright young founders who were to become some of the most famous Nobel winners in science. It is a celebration of youthful rebellion and intellectual revolution. An invitation to a magical place.
Here Rovelli illuminates competing interpretations of this science and offers his own original view, describing the world we touch as a fabric woven by relations. Where we, as every other thing around us, exist in our interactions with one another, in a never-ending game of mirrors.
Why quantum theory?
In our very limited understanding of quantum mechanics and what we have so far researched about Carlo Rovelli's explanation of it - quantum theory, systems thinking and complexity theory are all strongly related.
In the Western world, we have a significant reliance on a mindset of everything being measurable, model-able and understandable. We value the control of everything, we detest uncertainty and get completely flustered by complexity - largely ignoring the interconnected nature of the universe.
'Outside the west, the illusion of solidity has been less prevalent. The richest prescientific articulation of the alternative worldview came in the second century BCE writings of the Indian Mahayana Buddhist thinker Nagarjuna.
His doctrine of sunyata, or emptiness, says that nothing exists entirely unto itself but only in relation to other things. This was not quantum theory avant la lettre, but Rovelli argues that Nagarjuna’s Middle Way provides the right framework for understanding “a reality made up of relations rather than objects.”' - via
From a podcast that Rovelli did with the Economist he said:
'The economy is about relations. Psychology is about relations, chemistry is about relations between things, so relational thinking is all over. And to realize that relational thinking works better than thinking in terms of things, I think it’s a major paradigm shift, a change of perspective, that should have an influence on culture in general, I believe. "
"If we think about ourselves as a network of relations with other people and with other things of nature around us, I think we have a more deep and more useful understanding about ourselves than if you think of individual entities that have properties and exist by themselves, and then after that interact with something else. "
"So I think that, realizing the fundamentality of thinking in terms of relations, and understanding objects, animals, psychology, structures, societies as nodes in a network more than an entity by themselves, is the general teaching that can be taken out from this great step in Quantum physics."
Business largely ignores 'soft' intangibles such as the quality of the relationships between people, teams and partners. Very seldom does business really understand their own position in relation to their customers. There is a pervasive mindset that somehow they are different, detached, disconnected from others and the environment in which they operate. Business is viewed as some kind of an autonomous profit machine that simply benefits shareholders at the expense of everything else.
Science proves that this is certainly not the case at all.
I don't think they teach basic quantum theory in management schools as yet, but it really should be an important part of the curriculum.