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

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,312 ratings  ·  83 reviews
We live in a time of chaos, rich in potential for new possibilities. A new world is being born. We need new ideas, new ways of seeing, and new relationships to help us now. New science--the new discoveries in biology, chaos theory, and quantum physics that are changing our understanding of how the world works--offers this guidance. It describes a world where chaos is natur ...more
Paperback, 218 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published 1992)
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Nov 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Natasha by: Stephanie Servoss
Shelves: education, science
This book gave me an epiphany on practically every page. I learned about both leadership and science. I think studying them together helps improve understanding of both disciplines.

The notes I’ve posted below generated a lot of fodder for discussions in classes I taught.

Wheatley compared “strange attractors” to having a sense of purpose. (Strange attractors draw chaotic matter in and pull the system into its shape.) A sense of purpose gives increased individual freedom. Your sense of purpose d
Will Burns
Dec 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Chris Waddle
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Her take on the Science, I found I disagreed with much of her interpretations. It sparked the imagination but I would not particularly recommend this book because her take on the science I could not agree with.
Nov 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
So far, this book has been tiresomely repetitive and the author is overly impressed by her personal 'voyage of discovery.'
AnaMaria Rivera
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Applying Quantum Physics to organizations... I am extrapolating the findings of the book beyond organizations and into families (acknowledged as organizations by many scholars) and parenting... What learnings of Quantum Physics can we take as parents for our interaction and "creation" of our children... I found a few...

"The quantum world asks us to contemplate other mysteries as well. It reveals the webs of connection that are everywhere, and tantalizes us with a question: How do influence and c
Two sides of the coin. On the one hand, she is a big thinker and cites science (and Karl Weick) to support her statements that everything is part of a system, that we are in a time of paradigm shift, and that leadership is about giving people the power to self-organize and accomplish work. Leadership is not strategic planning, but strategic thinking. On the other hand, much of this is her own biases, it seems to me, bending and swooping to cherry pick quotes to support herself. I agree with much ...more
Jul 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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!
Jan 24, 2009 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).
Amber at Fall Into Books
I found this book to be a bit ridiculous, and if you don't fully understand the physics behind something, then you really shouldn't use the concepts/graphs/etc. in your academic work.
Yulia Vasyliv
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Читала цю книгу вже двічі. Вона ставить хороші питання: як у світі хаосу та безперервних змін мають функціонувати та розвиватися організації? Для мене ж ключове питання: які сили допомагають людям ставати самоорганізованими системами? Автор посилається багато на закони квантової фізики, що стимулює думати більше. Мені не вистачило ще одного розділу про перехід від мехіністичного суспільства до суспільства, де лідерство буде починати із кожної окремої людини і одночано не трактуватиметься як сила ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leadership
This book was assigned in my Foundations of Leadership class in my Master's of Organizational Leadership program.

This book was a fascinating and highly engaging read! The basic premise of the book is an analysis of scientific discoveries pertaining to systems and networks in the fields of quantum physics, chaos theory, etc. and drawing upon a number of these scientific principles and exploring how they can be applied to improve man-made organizations and systems. There were some very unusual con
Barry Linetsky
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
An interesting book that really comes down to generating motivation for human-centric organization structures and systems approach to cooperative work. It is a combination of flakey and insightful, in about equal measures, with a lot of references to modern science tossed in to serve as inappropriate reference points. I'm not sure why this book is so highly regarded. Perhaps it was the right message for the right time two decades ago.
Dave Moyer
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loves Wheatley's take on the inter-relatedness of things. Still relevant today for those interested in leadership theory.
Nikolay Theosom
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
she's got a point there, but i'm not certain why it's a book. could be as well a long read artile
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (Paperback)
by Margaret J. Wheatley
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Oct 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Julie Defilippi
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Wheatley is very repetitive. The book could be much shorter without loosing any information. Additionally, while I can accept using scientific theories as an analogous base, she claims to use them for validity and acceptability. The problem with this is that her science is not sound. While not outright wrong, her interpretations of the scientific theory are not actually correct either, she is oversimplifying to make her point. You can do that if you are going for analogy, but not validity. The s ...more
Helen Park
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
...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
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
can't believe it took me this long to get to this and finish it. the size of the book definitely made it weird to carry around (page size was too big).

this book is about the evolution of our world views. it's framed as a leadership book for the management theory world (probably for marketing purposes) but it's so much more than that. my biggest takeaway: we can learn and integrate a lot more from quantum mechanics into our macro world. and also, successful life is all about the perpetual oscilla
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Thomas Isern
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
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.
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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.” 1 likes
“In this way, dissipative structures demonstrate that disorder can be a source of new order, and that growth appears from disequilibrium, not balance.” 0 likes
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