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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,563 ratings  ·  98 reviews
The new edition of the bestselling, acclaimed, and influential guide to applying the new science to organizations and management. In this new edition, Margaret Wheatley describes how the new science radically alters our understanding of the world and how it can teach us to live and work well together in these chaotic times.

We live in a time of chaos, rich in potential f
Paperback, 218 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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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
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 ...more
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
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
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.' ...more
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
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.
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.
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A really lovely look at emergent theory and living through change. Not just for us organizational development folks but for anyone doing movement and organizing work. Got to keep gazing deep into those chasms.

A must for Emergent Strategy fans.
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. ...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
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
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). ...more
THE book to read, absorb, and enact for anyone who wants to be a wise leader ...
Josh Cramer
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
"I crave companions, not competitors. I want people to sail with me through this puzzling and frightening world. I expect to fail at moments on this journey, to get lost--how could I not? And I expect you too will fail...To stay the course, we need patience compassion, and forgiveness," writes Margaret Wheatley (2006) in "Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World". I feel the compassion Wheatley explores here is something that we all need to hear, but let's start at th ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Chaos systems have upper limits, and that should give comfort to managers. We need to change our thinking about management, like scientists did when they went from a Newtonian science to quantum physics.

Why I started this book: Another short Professional Reading title, that I could multi-task as I prepare some crafts for my library.

Why I finished it: Interesting, but many other reviewers pointed out how vague she was and her surface level understanding of the science she is quoting. Since I'm ge
KJ Grow
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, science
I'm not quite sure how to rate this one - 3.5 stars, I guess. This book was recommended to me by Praveen Madan, CEO of Kepler's Bookstores and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Berrett-Koehler Publisher, as a book that had been particularly influential to his thinking about management.

Unlike any other business book I've read - the science definitely felt over my head and I found myself having to just absorb the analogies rather than understand them. But I also found this book to be profound,
Sara (onourshelves)
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a conceptually interesting book, but I don't know that it is a super valuable book in terms of actual leadership or strategic planning. I would say the main points are as follows:
-Chaos is not necessarily bad, and is necessary for growth
- Networks are more effective than command and control leadership
-Every act of measurement loses more information than it gains, and you lose less information when there is more participation
-People support what they create
-Look for wholeness

Ngl it was
Jan 10, 2020 rated it liked it
So this is my assessment of this book Leadership and the new science by Margaret J. Wheatley according to my 7 criteria:
1. Related to practice - 4 stars
2. It prevails important - 4 stars
3. I agree with the read - 4 stars
4. not difficult to read (as for non English native) - 3 stars
5. too long and boring story or every sentence is interesting - 3 stars
6. Learning opportunity - 3 stars
7. Dry and uninspired style of writing - Smooth style with humouristic and fun parts - 3 stars

Total 3.42 stars
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. ...more
Ronald J.
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a deep book, and you will definitely think your way through it. I enjoyed it, perhaps because it confirms some of my priors regarding bureaucracy, measurement, command-and-control, illusion of control, etc. The interesting thing about Wheatley is she explores these issues through the realm of science, particularly systems thinking, chaos theory, and biology. Be prepared to have some of your core assumptions challenged. A thought-provoking read. We had the good fortune of interviewing Mar ...more
Christine Johnson
Mar 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A book I did not know I needed to read. Was intimidated at first using quantum physics and chaos and systems theories to understand leadership. Found this book helped me put together pieces of my understanding of leadership, myself, and the world in general.
Apr 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Love this kinda stuff. Chaos theory, organizational theory, systems thinking, correlations across disciplines. We need to move beyond the old school top down management science way of thinking to return to chaordic models of connecting, networking, imagining and implementing change together.
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. ...more
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (Paperback)
by Margaret J. Wheatley
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 ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
She offers an intriguing perspective about leadership through her understanding of ‘new science’.
Camia Young
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A tour through how the dominant views in science effect our organisational structures, and how we are shifting into a new paradigm that is less organised and more natural.
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