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Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
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Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,078 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Leadership and the New Science launched a revolution by demonstrating that ideas drawn from quantum physics, chaos theory, and molecular biology could improve organizational performance. Margaret Wheatley called for free-flowing information, individual empowerment, relationship networks, and organizational change that evolves organically -- ideas that have become commonpla ...more
Paperback, 218 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published 1992)
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Reading this for work. So far, I'm not finding it to be deeply inspiring. I agree with the premise, but I think there's a generational difference in my response - I've always known that we need to start in our communities, do what needs to be done, even if we don't know how to do i.t
Leadership and the New Science
Margaret Wheatley

Wheatley's book continually challenges us to rethink our metaphors of organization, leadership and change. She encourages us to step back to see things whole, to be curious and to be vividly aware of relationships at the heart of how things work. She argues that people do not need to be "motivated;" each of us has a deep longing for "community, meaning, dignity, purpose and love." If we could invite everyone and connect with that longing, we would r
Jan 27, 2009 Tara added it
I just couldn't get into this book. Too "out there" for me. Maybe I'll give it another try once I've had a longer break from school...(probably not).
Will Burns
I blame myself for not reading an excerpt before buying this book. I assumed it was about using data to lead in an increasingly data heavy world. Instead it is about the similarities between quantum physics and leading an organisation.

The author contorts herself in all kinds of directions to draw parallels that could be read the opposite way in each case. Margaret Wheatley seems to exult in being as vague as possible and shies away from giving any real usable advice. It is literary masturbation
So far, this book has been tiresomely repetitive and the author is overly impressed by her personal 'voyage of discovery.'
Oct 16, 2007 TC rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who's tired of the business or non-profit model as it stands now
While I don't normally tend to dip into the business management side of the book spectrum, this book, upon flipping through its pages, drew me right in.

And laid in plain, explicatory language the crossover from the "new science," chaos, self-organization, dissipative structures, ecological feedback loops, etc., to the realm of social organizational management that I've been trying to envision myself. Faint but present echoes of the Marxist critique of the modern capitalist imperative in ignoring
"In motivation theory, attention is shifting from the use of external rewards to an appreciation for the intrinsic motivators that give us great energy. We are refocusing on the deep longings we have for community, meaning, dignity, purpose, and love in our organizational lives. We are beginning to look at the strong emotions of being human, rather than segmenting ourselves by believing that love doesn't belong at work, or that feelings are irrelevant in the organization. There are many attempts ...more
There were definitely some points in this book I didn't agree with: there is no objective truth, that we should just let go of processes and it will all work out, but overall inspiring and the science metaphor throughout was really helpful and interesting.
A few things I enjoyed about this book was the narrative style where the author invites the reader to take the same journey she's been on, the tying of what we know as leadership to a Newtonian understanding of the world, the explorations into new science, and presenting a philosophical approach to leadership.

I would have appreciated some application pieces throughout the book rather than summarizing multiple themes at the end, and it would have been nice to see a positive example outside of ter
The strength of this book is challenging ways that we see organization by the use of viewing it though various disciplines of science. It certainly does invoke the reader to think through new ways of managing and organizing. However, the book certainly does lack in examples. Often Wheatley will make comments of organizations that have done something similar but fails to actually give these examples. The times that examples are given, they are often lacking depth or analysis. If a reader has a st ...more
One of the best books I've read on change and chaos; and life in general - i.e. on a personal as well as business level. Margaret Wheatley is visionary, but grounded. She has done consulting work with many organizations, including the U.S. Army.

At the top of the reading list for anyone interested in the 21st century and where we're going.

Check out the reviews at -

Check out her website for current reading and activities - http://www.margaretwhea
This is one of the worst books I've ever read. I wish that I could have that time back. The author doesn't understand the science to which she refers, constantly choosing fringe researchers (example: Bohm, for quantum mechanics), incorrectly explaining the principles, and focusing on only the few disciplines that support her views. The writing is excessively flowery, to the point that it obscures what she is trying to say. I read all of the one-star reviews on, just to check whether I ...more
Helen Park
...appreciated the perspective she presents, which allows for a more fluid, dynamic model for organizations, i.e., the shift from controlling employee population based on the assumption of all variables known to a model that allows for change and information input from organizations and appreciates 'disruptions'. used physics concepts to apply a tangible framework to enable dialogue within the orgnization construct. liked the emphasis toward the end of the book for finding meaning for oneself in ...more
Thomas Isern
This book explores the implications of late-twentieth century science for management and organizational theory. The end point is the author’s argument for self-referent, open systems that possess resilience through adherence to core values. Bases for the book include quantum physics, chaos theory, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principal, and the concept of the participative universe. This adds up to a critique of modern management science, which is based on the positivist precepts of Newtonian physic ...more
Exciting, mind-bending book about the principles of quantum physics applied to everyday life. Caused me to look at life events in a completely new way. Solidified personal belief that science and religion are co-portions of the eteranal knowledge base. Loved it and recommend to all.

A few of my friends have been put off by the science aspect. I did not feel it necessary to understand everything completely, only to begin to see things in a new way. Read with an open mind and learn what is there fo
Jun 07, 2011 Jeff rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Leadership and the New Science is in my top five books of all time. I've read it several times over the last decade. Reading it for the first time was a validating experience for me. I had always felt I was a misfit for not buying into what I can now term as, "the newtonian" philosophies of other business owners. I go back to it now to remind me to stay the course.

This book will change the way you think about the world and about business.
This book is amazing, it's got great physics in it (all the juicy stuff) and has a section on chaos theory. It does a good job of tying what we've learned in phyics to business problems. However, this is worth reading even if your not interested in the business parts.

Check out the cover as it's a naturally occuring design that occurs in chaos theory. Would make a great tat.
A very intriguing and fascinating book that looks at a more dynamic scientific paradigm and how this can contribute to more appreciation of the so-called chaotic nature of the world. Dr. Wheatley emphasizes a shift to a less mechanistic and hiearchical workplace. I enjoyed her refreshing look into the changing nature of leadership and orgznizational efficacy.
Every time I read this book I get something new out of it. Today, I liked the final passage, "after all is said and done, we have the gift of each other. We have each other's curiosity, wisdom and courage. And we have Life, whose great ordering powers, if we choose to work with them, will make us even more curious, wise and courageous."
If a person really put the ideas in this book to work, it could change their world. I read this book on a recommendation from the CEO of Nike
who used this as inspiration to re-structure his creative team. I was
interested. Loved the book. Gave it as a gift a couple of times but I guess I liked the book more than my friends did!
Anthony Sanders
Not a bad read, but the first 9 chapters seemed a bit repetitive. The 10th chapter though, that made me want to run out and help save the world!
Pamela Potts
A seminal work indeed. I don't think I would have "gotten it" when I was younger so I'm glad I didn't happen across this book until I had some experience in building leadership. Brilliant. I loved it. I can't imagine anyone else putting together two such disparate topics and successfully drawing parallels. Only Meg.
Keith Swenson
I should write a long review, because this is an important book, but right now I am just trying to get my book list up to date.

I mentioned this book in:

The theme of that blog post is on a similar line as this book.
One of my all time favorite books ever. Read this book when I was third grade teacher. Never dreamed of being a principal...the lessons are universal. Not just for "leaders" in the formal sense of the word. Meg wheatley changed my life.
A fun but fruity application of chaos and systems thinking to management. There is a better, more rigorous, application in a Harvard Business Review article: "A Leaders Framework for Decision Making" By Snowden and Boone, Nov. 2007.
This book was a breath of fresh air. Reaffirms how long it really does take for information to make it to the general population. It clearly defines the difference between certainty (what we all want) and possibility (what we all fear).
Apr 20, 2013 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All those in business from executives down.
Recommended to David by: Tom Wentz
This was a great read and any leader (no matter their level) who is interested in creating change within their organization should read this book. Wheatley has used great analogies from science to explain the new leadership.
De Vandiver
I first read this book in the aftermath of the Flood of 2005 in New Orleans, as a seminary assignment. Most of the book is flagged and tagged and I ofter return to it when I need to be reminded that change=a capacity for life.
A must-read book about emergent culture.

Margaret Wheatley is one of the foremost thinkers about "emergent culture." She is on the board of the Berkana Institute ( which works worldwide for positive change.
Peep Laja
Jun 07, 2007 Peep Laja rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in leadership, organizations and science
The book gives a great overview of new scientific development, from quantum physics to chaos theory and talks how businesses and organizations can learn from it. Amazingly written, very insightful and definitely an eye-opener
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“Whatever your personal beliefs and experiences, I invite you to consider that we need a new worldview to navigate this chaotic time. We cannot hope to make sense using our old maps. It won’t help to dust them off or reprint them in bold colors. The more we rely on them, the more disoriented we become. They cause us to focus on the wrong things and blind us to what’s significant. Using them, we will journey only to greater chaos.” 0 likes
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