In the aftermath of my last correspondence with a dear friend Jacob Christoffer Pedersen, an old recurring thought reappeared in relation to change and how we understand it.
When I i.e. reading Nora Bateson’s proclamation and apt expression “Change changes change or The alchemy of change changes as it changes“, my thoughts are guided into quantum physics and Niels Bohr – and further into the relations of uncertainty by Werner Heisenberg.
Niels Bohr’s point was that the way you set up your experiment has an influence on the experiment, i.e., on the quantum mechanical level (measurement problem). That point is also obvious in organisational change, and it is a well-known phenomenon in influencing strategy. In themselves experiments how we set them up matters to the change and how it is measured – what “really” counts?
Not everything, that counts, can be counted. And not everything, that can be counted, counts.
What seems less recognized are the uncertainties. Perhaps we have moved a little further from Kurt Lewin’s “Unfreeze-change-freeze” mindset, but there are still clear reminiscences of the causal mindset in the whole perception of and approach to change (not to mention the idea of “transformation”).
I know very well that in many ways these are rather banal insights. Insights that the Danish psychologist and philosopher of science Simo Køppe outlines Niels Bohr’s contribution in such a distinguished way:
“Culture constitutes a completed and harmonious whole, which can only be interpreted by means of the exploratory subject’s own culture …… Individuality is disturbed and cannot be captured in itself; registration is an intervention that changes what is to be registered”
[The Levels of Reality (Virkelighedens Niveauer), 1990, Complementarity and measurement, p.89.]
Individuality refers in quantum physical terms to the quantum (of action) and its indivisibility, discontinuity, and wholeness. Yes, sorry if that sounds a bit silly, but my quiet point in this context may just be that we cannot determine the wholeness and individuality according to classic “physical” laws – change is not causal, but perhaps observable on some levels.
A very basic consequence is that change is experienced at different levels and from different perspectives. And only the complementary description can approach a description of reality, although it can never be a separation of the whole from its individual parts. We cannot even with certainty describe or observe the individual parts, quantum physical objects cannot be determined in an exact way, and that characteristic is also a human one.
One could also say that “the burning platform” for change from many perspectives is decidedly destructive to the goal we have with change. It creates fission-like states in the whole and individuality where we need fusion. Not infrequently, that strategy has also been used to separate the “men from the mice” – if you cannot cope with “our” definition of the future, you must leave the bakery “.
The striking similarity consists in the indefinable in time, space, and behaviour of both individualities and wholes – we are (pre) doomed to probabilities and uncertainties (to paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre) wherein our freedom might very well exist.
That very thought disturbs the individuality (subject/individual) and the whole, and the temporal perspective (the moment/event): “When do I change, when did I change” – has had philosophical attention for a few thousand years. (Naturally equivalent considerations in spatial dimension: How-What-Where | Existential: Why and Who | Ontological, phenomenological: What-How-Why- (Who) relations).
The cardinal thing, I think, must be the execution of the quantum-effect (the change), and what we can say about it, and thus also the liminal process that either triggers or does not trigger its execution. And then what the potential consequences could be and what we can know about it overall.
So, my final question, I still struggle to find answers to:
“Now that we already know all this, why do we still think that we can change an organization according to a causal ” batch strategy “and a fairly compliant” change curve “(Kübler-Ross), which supposedly should be able to represent thousands of individualities?
- Nora Bateson: In the Blind Spot.
- Simo Køppe: Virkelighedens Niveauer – De nye videnskaber og deres historie, Gyldendal, 1990. (The levels of Reality – The new sciences and their history).
- Niels Bohr: Atomfysik og menneskelig erkendelse, (Quantum physics and human cognition) Schultz 1957.
- Volatility – LinkedIn group
“Volatility”, because we want to maintain the volatile element in life, and the fact that even when we are in the mind/thought, it changes form, and thus also the insight into its immutable changeability.
The connotation from Latin “transitus”, to allow passage through and cross watersheds, perhaps not just through, but also over, below and around – to embrace the fact of life that it passes and happens and is never quite the same as it was – a moment ago, it is always transient. It is a mode more than a proclamation, for it requires acceptance of the state of things – as changeable, the dynamic stasis of life. In that realization, it is also a friendly invitation to ourselves and others, to step into the volatility and wade with us from familiar landscapes to unknown watersheds – hopefully.