Janet's Reviews > A Simpler Way

A Simpler Way by Margaret J. Wheatley
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's review
Mar 29, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: business-future-possibilities
Read in January, 1999

I was introduced to Margaret Wheatley through this book as a part of a graduate course on Leadership and Organizational behavior, taught by a former priest turned organizational development HR specialist. The course was life changing in how I viewed business, systems,teams, etc. It led, along with many concurrent life changes, started me on a course of discovery on how to truly create a company that was a place where it was truly win-win-win.

Wheatley is on the bleeding edge of thought leaders about what could be, I suspect it will take us decades due to the sociological changes that will need to take place for these ideals to breath in many places. Wheatley does not run a company and advises. I find, like many OD practitioners, there is a gap of understanding about the sociological realities of change since people in the 20th century were taught to build systems and now we are all learning to allow knowledge workers to build their own approaches.

Her ideals, for me, are thought provoking and do allow me to explore beliefs and see if they fit for the future.

Here's a sample of wheatleys's take on the importance of relationships.


The book itself is more like poetry, so I don't recommend it for non-fiction readers.

The book is based around the following ideas: everything is in a constant process of discovery and creating; life uses mess to get to well-ordered solutions, it doesn't seem to share our desires for efficiency or neatness, it uses redundancy, fuzziness, dense webs of relationships, and unending trails and errors to find what works; life is intent on finding what works, not what's "right"; life creates more possibilities as it engages with opportunities; life is attracted to order; life organizes around identity; everything participates in the creation and evolution of its neighbors.

The book "The Wisdom of Crowds" discovered to take advantage of the wisdom of a crowd, a certain framework needed to be in place to make the reality possible. Wheatley, idealistic that she is, does not yet recognize that piece of the puzzle. I appreciate her idealism and thoughts, just find on the implementation level, we have a generation to go.

Here is the quote from this book:

"In their work on human cognition, Maturana and Varela explain that, at any moment, what we see is most influenced by who we have decided to be. Our eyes do not simply pick up information from an outside world and relay it to our brains. Information relayed from the outside through the eye accounts for only 20 percent of what we use to create a perception. At least 80 percent of the information that the brain works with is information already in the brain.

We each create our own worlds by what we choose to notice, creating a world of distinctions that makes sense to us. We then "see" the world through this self we have created. Information from the external world is a minor influence. We connect who we are with selected amounts of new information to enact our particular version of reality.

Because information from the outside plays such a small role in our perceptions, Maturana and Varela note something quite important for our activities with one another. We can never direct a living system. We can only disturb it. As external agents we provide only small impulses of information. We can nudge, titillate, or provoke one another into some new ways of seeing. But we can never give anyone an instruction and expect him or her to follow it precisely. We can never assume that anyone else sees the world as we do.


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