MODERN ALCHEMY BOOK REVIEWS

 

by Dennis William Hauck

 

 

The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena

by Dean Radin, Ph.D. (HarperCollins, San Francisco; ISBN 0-06-251502-0)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        The premise of this book is that psychic phenomena are real. For many of us who have experienced ESP directly or have seen it at work in others, that is not such an earth-shattering announcement. However, the author is not asking us to accept the reality of psi based on our intuitive feelings or anecdotal evidence. Instead, Dr. Dean Radin offers proof that psychic phenomena are demonstrably, scientifically, and physically real. Given the skeptical attitude most scientists have about psychic powers, that makes this book highly controversial and turns its author into a modern Copernicus, subject to the derision and indignation of many of his colleagues. 

        In seeking to prove the existence of psi, Dr. Radin draws from his years of parapsychological research at the University of Edinburgh, Princeton University, Stanford Research Institute, and the Consciousness Research Laboratory at the University of Nevada. His pioneering research has shown that the human mind can influence the operation of computer software and even cause equipment malfunctioning. In fact, there seems to be a connection between human depression and computers crashing ¾ so keep happy at the keyboard if you know what’s good for you! Moreover, it follows that if individual thoughts can influence machines, then whole groups of people, focused on the same thing, can make even more profound changes in the material world. In several experiments conducted over the last two years, Radin has proven that movements of mass mind are tied to movements of “order” in physical systems. In other words, mass thoughts somehow organize the chaos around us. For instance, on October 3, 1995, during the reading of the O.J. Simpson verdict, with over a half-billion people focusing their attention on television sets worldwide, there was a simultaneous and unexpected ordering of results from sophisticated random-number generators located everywhere on the planet. These amazing results have been confirmed with other mass media events such as the Academy Awards, the Superbowl, and the Olympics. 

        Dr. Radin has received grants to study psychic ability from the U.S. government, as well as corporate giants like AT&T and Sony, and is in an excellent position to demonstrate the surprising extent to which the truth of psi has already been tacitly acknowledged and exploited in our society. He is convinced that future technology will boast psychically activated switches and mind-controlled guidance systems. He explains the lack of support from the scientific establishment for his ideas by deftly exposing the institutionalized prejudices of the scientists themselves. But even more disturbing than the inflexible attitudes of a handful of scientists are the  inevitable social, economic, and spiritual consequences of the mass realization that mind and matter can influence each other without physical contact. How such knowledge would be used by the human species makes the discovery of atomic energy seem like child’s play.

 

 

The Other Mind’s Eye: Gateway to the Hidden Treasures of Your Mind

by Allen Sargent  (Success Design International, Malibu, California)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        At the core of New Age beliefs is the idea that visualization is the key to getting what you want in life. It is really an ancient Hermetic principle first expressed in Egypt as the cosmic pattern of creation from Above. Manifestation begins as an idea or image in the mind of God, symbolized by the archetypal symbol of the Eye of Horus. Since the macrocosm corresponds to the microcosm, that power of creation through visualization is available to mankind.

        The trick, of course, is learning to use that power, and that is where the author of this book has made an important contribution. As a consultant and trainer in personal empowerment using techniques from neuro-linguistic programming, Allen Sargent has focused on the practical aspects of personal transformation. In this book, he addresses a real problem in the field of personal transformation. Some people are just not able to visualize or not able to consciously access internal images. Until now, these “mind’s eye challenged” individuals were ignored by those of us living with a plethora of vivid and easily accessed imagery.

        Sargent gets around this problem by working with what he calls the “second mind’s eye,” which tapes into both hemispheres of the brain for information. He calls his technique “Internal Dominant Eye Accessing,” and it is based on ophthalmological studies that show everyone has one dominant physical eye with which they see. Similarly, we have one dominant “mind’s eye” that is either right-brain (image/feeling-based) or left-brain (thought-based). The basic principle is that if there is not enough information in your dominant mind’s eye, check to see what is in your other mind’s eye.

        For instance, in judging a person, first get a sense of which internal eye you are seeing with. After checking inside, and in a way that is just right for you, shift your attention to your other internal eye, so that you will be seeing that person now with information coded in your other hemisphere. The next time you think of that person, you will have deeper insight and be able to make a truer response. This same methodology can be applied to just about any situation. In this way, you start to work with more powerful, more resourceful mental “images” that are the keys to turning your dreams into reality.

Struggle of the Magicians: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship

by William Patrick Patterson (Arete Communications, Fairfax, California)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        Any teacher-student relationship is marked by inner discovery and a heightened level of human interaction. However, when the teacher is Georg Gurdjieff and the student is Peter Uspenski, the traditional relationship becomes nearly archetypal in scope and takes on a deeper identity that is bigger than the sum of its parts. These two geniuses distilled the spiritual wisdom of the ages and made it into a miraculous yet practical system for modern seekers. For their followers, they were both magicians in the highest sense of the word.

As spiritual leaders, both Gurdjief and Uspenski could get through to people on the deepest level and even bend their followers wills when they resisted. Both men were already well known lecturers when they first met in Moscow, yet their coming together added the perfect blend of energies to their teachings. “Gurdjieff had what Uspenski wanted,” notes the author William Patrick Patterson, “— a way out, a way of understanding, a way of using ordinary life with all its shocks, suffering, and negativity to come to real life. And Uspenski had what Gurdjieff wanted – a powerful intellect that could quickly comprehend the teaching and the oral and written abilities to communicate it; that is to ‘step-down’ the teaching and make it accessible to larger numbers of people.”

Yet something went wrong. Uspenski broke with his teacher three times in the eight years they were together before finally turning his back on his mentor without ever explaining exactly what happened. This book seeks an answer to that question, as well as the larger issue of what makes the teacher-student relationship work and why it fails. If there is a single answer to the question of why such relationships fail, this book suggests it is in the teacher.

No one familiar with the life and writings of Gurdjieff can deny that he was a contradictory man – at once mystical and gentle yet egocentric and overbearing. He fully believed he was chosen to reveal the mysteries of spiritual reality to the whole world, yet he admitted to being born into a “class of people who lived like animals, without principles and without anything holy in them.” He never forgot his roots. Gurdjieff was no ethereal holy man; he always had both feet firmly planted on the ground. He expected unwavering allegiance from his disciples.

And therein lay the problem. The ideal teacher-student relationship is a living, growing thing, and so it must remain if the student is to change, to get anything from his efforts. Not only Uspenski but most of Gurdjieff’s closest students came up against the same ultimate demand – the complete and unyielding dedication to teacher and teachings. Yet even those students who deserted him would agree with Uspenski’s response when a short time after Gurdjieff’s death, someone remarked what a strange man he was. “Strange!” injected Uspenski, “He was extraordinary! You cannot possibly imagine how extraordinary Gurdjieff was.”

 

ALCHEMY BOOK REVIEWS

 

Dancing the Dream: The Seven Sacred Paths of Human Transformation

By Jamie Sams  (HarperCollins, San Francisco, California)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        What is it about the number seven and human transformation? It is the prominent number of steps on the “ladder to God” in most major religions. The Catholic seven sacraments embody the attributes of the compassion of Christ, which are to be emulated to reach the Christ consciousness, and in Judaism, the seventh day of creation is devoted to the manifestation of spirit in the physical world. In Islam, there are seven paths Muslims must follow to know Allah. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, seven energy centers (chakras) in the human body lead to enlightenment. The seven visible planets guide the way to our return to the stars in the hermetic tradition, and in alchemy, there are seven operations that perfect the metals in man and raise our “temperaments” to the divine level.

        Not surprisingly, the same pattern shows up in aboriginal and native cultures throughout the world. In the Native American tradition, the Medicine Wheel represents the seven paths of human initiation. In her latest book, Jamie Sams, author of the popular Medicine Cards and Sacred Path Cards series, combines twenty-five years of intensive study with Cherokee and Seneca shamans to give seekers a clear and straightforward path to spiritual transformation. According to those traditions, the human spiritual journey is guided by the seven sacred directions.

        The journey begins in the East, the direction of readiness for change, sudden illumination, and spiritual synchronicity. Armed with our new spiritual perspective, we turn South, which is the way of healing relationships and return of trust into our lives. To the West we discover the power of introspection and meditation that build self-esteem and personal balance to continue our quest. To the North we understand the proper use of our newly acquired wisdom and find the way of unconditional love and compassion. Above us lies infinity, where we learn how to move in the spiritual and imaginal realms, often with the help of a plant “ally” or deep meditative state. Below we reconnect with the earth and return to matter, but now we are able to see spirit in all things and use that power to help others. Finally, we enter Within, the secret place inside where we exist self-sufficient in full consciousness of the present moment. The mysterious thing about all the seven-stepped spiritual paths is that they all lead to this same place: living in concentrated awareness of the eternal Now.

 

 

The Marriage of Sense and Soul

by Ken Wilbur  (Broadway Books, New York)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        This new book by consciousness researcher Ken Wilbur addresses one of the most critical problems in the modern world: the schism between science and religion. Science has given us profound methods for discovering objective truth, while religion remains the greatest force for generating meaning and value in lives. That the two disciplines are seen as mutually exclusive has wrenching consequences for humanity. We live in a world of two diametrically opposed cultures instead of a world with one true philosophy.

        Wilbur proposes that the two sides can "begin to look more like fraternal twins than centuries-old enemies" by expanding their horizons and merging frontiers. He asks of science that it surrender its narrow materialistic empiricism for broader-based approach that recognizes the role of consciousness in reality. Of religion, he asks that it surrender its dogmatic pathways to truth in favor of individual spiritual experience. In this way, consciousness itself becomes the bridge that unites the objective spirit of science with the subjective soul of religion.  This alchemical marriage is the answer to many of our problems, not only in society but also within individuals. In fact, it seems as if this union of sense and soul is our only hope for integrity and the biggest intellectual challenge of the coming millennium.

        "It is a strange and grotesque coexistence," notes Wilbur, "with value-free science and value-laden religion deeply distrustful of each other, aggressively attempting to colonize the same small planet. It is a clash of Titans, to be sure, yet neither seems strong enough to prevail decisively nor graceful enough to bow out altogether. The trial of Galileo is repeated countless time, moment to moment, around the world, and it is tearing humanity, more or less, in half."

        Ken Wilbur's work will be familiar to most readers interested in spirituality and consciousness studies. He is the author of a dozen profound and often controversial books, including The Atman Project, The Spectrum of Consciousness, Up From Eden, Grace and Grit, A Brief History of Everything, The Eye of Spirit, and Sex, Ecology, and Spirit.

 

 

FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Harper & Row Publishers)

Reviewed by William Hauck

 

        Twelve years ago psychologists from around the world began an experiment to determine what people really mean, when they say they are enjoying themselves or feel glad to be alive.  The Optimal Experience Project, under the direction of the Chairman of Psychology at the University of Chicago, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (hereafter simply referred to as Professor Mihaly), developed a unique method for measuring the quality of subjective experience. They gave each subject an electronic pager unit, which was activated by a radio transmitter at random intervals eight times a day.  Whenever the pager sounded, the subject wrote down what he or she was thinking and feeling at that moment. So far, researchers have collected over 100,000 individual profiles using this sampling method.

        Their studies revealed that what makes experience enjoyable is a state of consciousness known as "flow", where concentration is so focused that one is totally absorbed in an activity, at the peak of one's abilities, free of any sense of time or personal problems.  While such feelings are often associated with sports, musical, or scientific endeavors, they also surface in everyday leisure activities and in the work environment.

          It was in the workplace, however, that the data revealed a puzzling paradox.  The majority of peak or flow experiences were reported on the job, but at the same time  people reported they would rather be doing something else.  In one study of nearly 5,000 Americans, 54% experienced flow while at work, but only 18% experienced it at home.  At work, supervisors were more often in the flow state (64%) than clerical workers (51%) or blue collar workers (47%), but even blue collar workers experienced it more than twice as often at work as at home.  While all reported the flow experience as positive and desirable, most also said they would rather be at home than at work, regardless of whether they were experiencing flow.

        "When it comes to work," says Professor Mihaly, "people do not heed the evidence of their senses.  They disregard the quality of immediate experience, and base their motivation instead on the strongly rooted cultural stereotype of what work is supposed to be like.  The time invested into work is perceived as time subtracted from the total available for our life.  So even though the momentary on-the-job experience may be positive, we tend to discount it, because it does not contribute to our own long-range goals."

        In FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Professor Mihaly explains how to maximize conditions conducive to flow, and educate ourselves and those around us to the value of this state of consciousness.  According to the professor, flow is nothing less than total immersion in life, lifting the course of one's life to a different level: "Alienation gives way to involvement, enjoyment replaces boredom, helplessness turns into a feeling of control, and psychic energy works to reinforce the sense of self, instead of being lost in the service of external goals.  When experience is intrinsically rewarding life is justified in the present, instead of being held hostage to a hypothetical future gain."

        The professor has divided the phenomenology of flow into eight major components.  First, the experience occurs when we confront challenging tasks that we have a chance of completing.  Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.  Third, the task undertaken must have clear goals.  Fourth, there must be some sort of feedback as to how the task is progressing.  Fifth, one acts with a deep  but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.  Sixth, we must have a sense of control over our actions.  Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the experience is over.  Eighth, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, or minutes stretch out to seem like hours.  These factors combine to create a sense of enjoyment so rewarding that people expend a great deal of energy just to be able to feel its flow.

        Psychologists describe these kind of people as  "autotelic" personalities.  The term comes from the Greek "auto" meaning self, and "telos" meaning goal.  It refers to self-contained activity with no expectation of a future reward, because the doing itself is the reward.  On the other hand, "exotelic" personalities must have some external reward in mind before starting an activity.  Of course, most of us are combinations of the two types.  Generally, people go to college for exotelic reasons (expecting to make more money or gain more prestige), but hopefully by the time they are practising their professions, they are enjoying their work autotelically.

        Professor Mihaly's book is not one of those popular how-to guides on being happy.  His conclusions are supported by sixty pages of sources and notes.  This book is a scholarly yet down-to-earth presentation of new research, that any educated reader can evaluate and apply to his or her life.  In these times of changing priorities in the state job environment, FLOW reaffirms the importance of the deeper, more personally rewarding aspects of one's chosen career.    

 

 

 

Alchemy for Managers: Turning Experience Into Achievement

by Tom Reeves  (Butterworth-Heinemann 1998)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        While books on the practical and applied aspects of management abound, much less has been written about the personal side of managing. Yet to improve any organization, change must begin with the managers themselves _ the supervisors and department heads who implement transformation. In other words, if the managers cannot change, how can the organization?

        For thousands of years, the Great Work of alchemy was to seek perfection of both mind and matter through controlled transformation. During the heyday of alchemy, some of the world's greatest minds spent their lives seeking the hidden principles that connected mind and matter, soul and spirit. In fact, the real goal of the alchemists was not to change lead into gold but to change our leaden souls into the gold of spirit. Modern psychologists have recognized the deep contributions the alchemists made to understanding and perfecting the human personality, and this book is just one of many new works that apply these principles to management.

        The goal of alchemical management is to turn the struggling manager into an "adept." The word comes from the Latin word adeptus, meaning "having attained" and used in medieval times to describe someone who had attained the great secrets of alchemy. The alchemists postulated seven universal steps of transformation that took place within three broad stages. In several recent university studies undertaken in the United States and Great Britain, these seven steps and three stages have been identified in the real world of business management. In this book, the author identifies the three broad stages of being a manager as the Conformist Implementer, the Independent Experimenter, and the Autonomous Agent. Within each of these three stages, managers exhibit distinct modes of thinking, feeling, and willing or doing.

        The first three steps of transformation take place during the Conformist Implementer stage. In these first levels of a manager's development, the manager's individual behavior is basically controlled by outsiders: at the first two levels by rules and procedures, and at the third level by conforming to a code of correct behavior. At Step One, the manager is static, rigid, and standard. He or she adheres to established rules and procedures, obeying those in authority. At Step Two, the manager starts to respond by adapting, modifying or controlling rules, procedures, systems, and people. At Step Three, the manager becomes more sensitive and aware, in tune with what is happening, thus relating directly to norms and conventions.

        The next three steps of transformation take place during the Independent Experiment stage. These three levels are marked by the manager moving away from doing the approved thing and starting to find out for himself or herself what is true, right, and appropriate. The manager's behavior is now controlled from within rather than by external factors. The manager learns to find out for himself or herself to do things his or her way _ even though this means deviating from norms and being different. At Step Four, the manager is experiencing things directly and prepared to learn from experience. At Step Five, the manager is openly experimenting and deliberately trying to find out more and improve on the status quo. At Step Six, the manager is connecting, making large scale links that lead to much wider understanding, including the realization that most things are somehow interconnected. There is a sense of oneness at this level.

        The final step of transformation takes place during the Autonomous Agent stage. This seventh level overlaps somewhat with the last step of the previous stage. The manager's sense of connectedness and holistic view is now drawn upon to find integration with the work world. Work is now about doing something important and constructive, about changing the world. At Step Seven, the manager is integrating himself or herself with the organization and the outside world and with the tasks at hand. The perfected manager makes this part of his or her own life and is dedicated to it with full commitment. That is, the perfected manager has learned how to fulfill himself or herself within the constraints of also having to meet organizational purposes.

        To test this model, Britain's prestigious Sheffield Polytechnic and the Institute of Management followed the careers of fifty managers in six different organizations that covered various public and private sectors. At the end of the study, they found an amazing correlation between the alchemical model and the real life experiences of the managers. Furthermore, managers in the sample were asked to relate their experiences directly to the model, which they were all able to do easily and instinctively. The alchemical model thus provides a tested framework which other managers can use to help make sense of their past experience and see the direction in which they need to develop in the future.

 

 

The Transformation of Management

by Mike Davidson  (Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston, 1996)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        Mike Davidson is a management consultant for companies undergoing large-scale transformation. He specializes in situations where major, institution-wide change is the leadership team’s most important concern, and he has guided some of the nation’s largest concerns, including American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Eastman Kodak, Honeywell, and Lockheed. In this book, he brings together his years of top-level experience with compelling insights and illuminating case studies that promise to reveal not just how to stay ahead of the competition but also how to beat global trends and achieve success today and in the future. 

        “Is there any reason,” writes the author in his introduction, “to hope for a renaissance of management that can create a better world? That is a situation where the rule, and not the exception, is successful organizations run by happy people; where the goals of organizations inspire passion and not cynicism; where management is more about exploiting opportunities than solving problems; where leaders coach and counsel rather than command and control; and where we know how to sustain these characteristics in the face of intensive competition and wrenching change, so that future generations do not have to repeat the pain and suffering being experienced throughout the world of organizations today.”

        The thesis of his book is that there are reasons why supervisory staff live in difficult times, that there is hope for a management renaissance, and that there is a discipline, a Grand Strategy, to bring about that renaissance. This Grand Strategy is about the transformation of management philosophy and centers around four main areas. First is the idea of Mission. What is the management team trying to accomplish in the organization? Second is Competition. How can the organization garner more funding or get a competitive edge. Third is Performance. How does management plan to deliver the results? Last is Change. How will individuals and departments, as well as the organization as a whole cope with the changes?

        In answering these four basic questions, the author presents a specific and detailed strategy for changing the organization so that it can survive modern challenges. There are a number of important points made in this book that all levels of management must keep in mind during this process of change. One of the most important is that the doers must be the planners. Strategic planning is a line task to be undertaken by those responsible for the plan’s implementation. The planner’s and consultant’s role is to manage the process, provide expertise on strategic thinking, generate new ideas, and act as devil’s advocate. If there is no inside person who can do all those tasks and survive, outside assistance is necessary.

        Another important idea expressed in this book is that the “soft” issues are more important than the “hard” ones. In the Seventies, managers did not talk about soft issues ¾ mission, vision, purpose, beliefs, values ¾ but focused on hard issues like profit, costs, budgeting, and growth projections. In a world of accelerating change and unprecedented competition for funds, however, issues that once were soft are now hard, that is, erratic and subject to unpredictable change. To create a foundation for planning, managers must make the so-called soft issues hard, that is, predictable and consistent. The solution is to develop a clearly understood, broadly based and qualitatively stated mission that lays out the organization’s shared purposes and values, and the distinctive capabilities that must be developed to fulfill it.

        An excellent strategy with adequate implementation will always lose to an adequate strategy with excellent implementation. However, the adequate plan must have deep personal and organizational commitment if its implementation is to be truly excellent. When a plan has that commitment, minor imperfections in strategy will easily be overcome by the sheer momentum of the organization. In fact, if the overall behavior of the people in an organization, especially that of the middle managers, does not change, then neither will the organization. Indeed, if the way financial resources are allocated changes, but the way human resources operate does not, the organization will most likely be worse off than before.

Strategic change is mostly about managing people, not money. The organization’s people must be shown that there is no gap between the words and actions of management. It is a sad organization in which more people are penalized for adhering strictly to stated values than for not doing so, but most traditional organizations operate that way without knowing it. Only consistency of action and statements, beginning at the highest levels, will result in fundamental change. Surprisingly, consistency is actually more important than content in making an organization run efficiently. The fact is there is no one strategy or set of rules that work automatically, and implementation counts more than the strategy itself.

        Along those lines, the author ends his book with the wry observation that “there is no one, right dogma for anything.” For organizations, that means there is no one, right strategy that works in every application. With the exception of that rule, of course.

 

 

Complexity and Creativity in Organizations

by Ralph Stacey  (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 1996)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        This is one of those breakthrough books on management that presents a radically different approach instead of simply rehashing traditional textbook truisms. Professor of management Ralph Stacey, one of the world’s leading authorities on complexity theory, has taken a significant step forward from his previous publications by integrating the principles of this emerging field with such diverse disciplines as psychoanalysis and biology. Through this novel approach, he effectively demonstrates a fact of life that all those sophomoric management tomes cannot handle and therefore ignore. Like it or not, there are very real limitations in the ability of conscious human intention to direct organizational change. That is tantamount to saying that the science of management can never completely succeed and can be compared to the statements of quantum physicists who suggested that God plays dice with the universe and mankind can never really know what the next throw will be.

        The startling admission that management is inherently flawed seems like a strange starting point for a book on management theory. The conclusion is based on the idea that organizations are becoming more complex. Faster technology, greater dissemination of information, increasing interconnectedness between departments and outside organizations, and the increased diversity among people that this brings make it increasingly difficult for managers to foresee the consequences of their actions and stay in control. So, the whole idea of relying on predicted future outcomes in action planning is invalid because future outcomes in today’s world are radically unpredictable. But the goal of management is to design organizations that we can control with predictable outcomes. Caught in this dilemma, managers on all levels feel they must stay in control at all costs and initiate self-defeating programs that attempt to increase regimen and prevent “anarchy.” Many managers have a knee-jerk reaction to not being in control that kicks them right in face.

        The point of this book is that when managers try to repress the anxiety of not being in control in the unstable, ever-changing nature of today’s business climate, they also repress the one thing that can save them, the creative impulses that allow members of a workforce to produce their best work. By deliberately allowing space for novelty within their organization, managers plant seeds of freedom that can produce the best ideas in the shortest time. According to the author, the best organizations are the most creative ones but also the most stressful on managers because they operate at the edge of chaos.

          Luckily, there is an evolving science for working with chaos that promises to revolutionize management. Called complexity theory, it studies the fundamental properties of nonlinear-feedback networks and particularly complex adaptive networks (or organizations). Complex adaptive networks consist of a number of components (or employees) that interact with each other according to sets of rules (or procedures) that require them to examine and respond to each other’s input and behavior in order to improve their own behavior and thus the behavior of the whole system (or organization) that they comprise.

In other words, such systems operate in a manner that constitutes learning. Because those learning systems operate in environments that consist mainly of other learning systems (or other organizations), it follows that together they form a “coevolving suprasystem” that creates and learns its way into the future. Departments interact to form organizations. Organization interact to form national economic and political systems. National systems interact to form global systems.

“Physical, chemical, biological, and computer-simulated feedback networks are all creative,” notes the author, “only when they operate right at the edge of system disintegration, in a kind of phase transition between a stable zone of operation and an unstable or disordered regime. In human terms, this means that the old wives’ tale about genius being close to madness may well have a scientific basis, one we share with the universe. We are creative when we manage to move away from the stability of neurotically defensive behavior but avoid the [complete] disintegration of psychotic episodes. This place at the edge of mental disintegration [has been called] the “depressive position,” the place where we are able to hold the ambiguities and paradoxes of life and contain the anxiety they generate. [Some have called] this space a transitional one, between the real world outside the mind and the inner fantasy world, where creative behavior is located, the world of mythology and play that is the foundation of creativity. In groups we mostly operate in a state in which we utilize structures and processes, covert politics and game playing, to block anxiety-provoking complex learning and stay in the group’s stable zone. But if at the edge of disintegration, we are able to contain the anxiety provoked by complex learning, then we are able to question the fundamental assumptions we are making about our world and engage in true dialogue, beginning an exciting journey of discovery.”       

 

 

Imaginization: New Mindsets for Seeing, Organizing, and Managing

by Gareth Morgan  (Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 1997)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        No, the title of this book is not misspelled. Imaginization is a new concept that combines “imagination” with “organization” to form new managerial skills that enable supervisors to unleash greater creativity without sacrificing focus in the workplace. Deeper creativity and greater focus are the two requirements necessary for a modern organization to survive the challenges of a world in flux and change, yet few managers have learned the secret of combining them into one cohesive approach. This book is a guide to doing just that, and the key to the whole process is in the term “image.”

        In dozens of case examples from real organizations, the author demonstrates how the images we hold of organizations and our coworkers can have a profound and surprising effect on the way that we work, think, make decisions, solve problems, and communicate. For example, in one large corporation, supervisors were asked to describe themselves and their colleagues using graphic metaphors that captured personal styles and behavior. Amazingly, everyone seemed to agree on the most appropriate images for each of the individuals. One supervisor was depicted by a tornado because of the way he “spotted problems and moved in on them as quickly as possible” and how he “shifted from issue to issue and place to place tracking emerging problems.” Yet, to his coworkers, he represented a “very strong force” with the “downside of demolishing all that stood before.”

        Another managerial style was represented by the giraffe. By his own admission, the supervisor in question revealed how he was always trying to get an overall view of things, always wanting to look a long way in all directions to see what was coming before others saw it. His colleagues remarked that though the giraffe is “strong and can really move when necessary,” it “gets into a lot of difficulty if it sits down or backs into an awkward situation.” The lowly ant was chosen to represent the industrious way another manager went about his work and how he was able to “carry enormous burdens much bigger than his size would indicate.” The image also captured the man’s “great need for collaborative activity in building anthills and how he depended on the support of others.” The man even “bugged” people, pestering them to get results “that always have to end up on his own personal anthill.” Sometimes the images conveyed very subtle messages, as was the case in one supervisor symbolized by the figure of Robin Hood. He was described as “generous, bright, trustworthy, a natural leader” but also as someone “on his own track, always getting others to support his cause ¾ very demanding and impatient.”

        “Managers have a tendency to get trapped by their images of their role,” notes author Gareth Morgan. “Indeed, even the image of being a manager may no longer be relevant and prove a liability, especially if the aim is to promote capacities for self-organization and change. Such is the challenge facing management in turbulent times. It’s a challenge that requires an ability to develop completely new ways of thinking and acting: by breaking free of taken-for-granted images, assumptions, and blind spots that don’t serve us well and by developing alternatives.”

        By making use of a variety of evocative cartoons, Morgan presents a range of alternative images, revealing how each can evoke new ways of approaching complex issues ¾ from creativity and continuous learning to team building. He shows how using imaginization can enable a supervisor to quickly translate the best insights from new research on chaos, complexity, and self-organization into practical new strategies of management. Some of those practical lessons he presents show managers how to create adaptable, decentralized modes of organization and new approaches to teamwork that promote an organization-wide capacity for learning, adaptation, and self-organizing. He also shows managers how to develop fresh understanding of roles and remove obstacles to change by aligning and directing organizational efforts through shared images and understandings. The new flexibility allows the organization to reinvent and generate new services and products, while it remains receptive, energized, and empowered even in the midst of constant change.

        Gareth Morgan is a distinguished management research professor at York University in Toronto and is an internationally respected business consultant. He pioneered the idea of using metaphor to radically change the ways we view organizations and management in his bestselling Images of Organization. In this sequel, he show how to transform that new vision into a core competency on which managers can draw to develop, renew, and reinvent ways of managing in order to keep their organizations in sync with the constant change around them. This is a book that should be on the bookshelf of every manager seeking creative ways to transform not only one’s organization ¾ but also oneself.

 

LEADERSHIP AND THE NEW SCIENCE: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe

by Margaret Wheatley (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francicso)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

          Management theory has always had close ties to the sciences.  In the early 1900's, management "engineers" introduced time-motion studies and divided jobs into discrete, repetitive tasks, which gave new impetus to the Industrial Revolution.  Today, management tools such as measurement techniques, motivational methods, and organizational design have a scientific basis.  The modern manager seeks to be as objective about organizations as scientists are about nature.

          However, according to business consultant Margaret Wheatley, the ideas of management have not kept up with the sweeping changes in science.  "If we are to continue to draw from the sciences to create and manage organizations," she says, "then we need to at least ground our work in the science of our times.  We need to stop seeking after the universe of the seventeenth century and begin to explore what has become known to us in the twentieth century."

        What happened to the sciences in the twentieth century was the fall of Newtonian physics.  In Isaac Newton's universe, everything was ruled by the laws of cause and effect.  Events took place in a logical, linear fashion, and results could be predicted -- provided enough information could be obtained about the behavior of the system.  Physicists looked at the universe like a giant billiard game.  If you knew the force imparted by the cue stick, along with the mass and position of each ball, you could calculate where each ball would end up.

        We have all been in meetings that are run like billiard games.  Lists, schedules, plans, accountabilities, and projections dominate the discussion.  Like little cue balls, we are supposed to absorb the force and direction of the meeting, then go our separate ways.  Armed with our individual "to do" lists, we assume that the game will proceed as planned, if everyone does their part.

        Experienced managers come to realize that such intensive scheming rarely works.  Our lists and time projections seldom turn out correct, because they do not capture true experience.  Trying to control organizational behavior is perplexing at best, and trying to predict actual results is almost impossible.  The problem is that we create linear models in our minds that have no basis in reality. 

        A new and different science is required to describe the real world.  Quantum mechanics, the most successful scientific theory ever created, gives us a much truer picture of the nature of reality.  In the last sixty years, the theory has been demonstrated in about every scientific discipline from astronomy to zoology.  But it is a strange theory, which does not at all resemble the clock-like universe of Newton.  One of its founders, Niels Bohr, warned: "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."

        In examining the deepest reaches of the atom, physicists discovered that elementary particles exist only as "bundles of potentiality" that change their form and properties in response to other particles or even to the scientist observing them.  In other words, the basis of reality is not a definable "thing" but a fluid potentiality, whose form is determined by its relationships.  At this level, nothing exists independent of its relationship with something else.  The absolute predictability of classical physics was replaced by an uncertainty about events that could only be expressed in probabilities, not certainties.

        The author sees a parallel between atoms and people:

"Different settings and people evoke some qualities from us and leave others dormant.  In each of these relationships, we are different, new in some way.  What is critical is the relationship created between the person and the setting.  That relationship will always be different, will always evoke different potentialities.  Absolute prediction and uniformity are, therefore, impossible."

        In planning, business leaders believe they are responding to a demand from the environment, when in fact they are creating that environment by formalizing a strong response.  "The environment remains uncreated until we interact with it," writes Wheatley, "there is no describing it until we engage with it.  Abstract planning divorced from action becomes a cerebral activity of conjuring up a world that does not exist."

        How can Quantum Management be practiced?  Strategies must remain flexible with the ability to perform studies and assemble information quickly.  People ought to be allowed to interpret situations in their own terms.  Feedback should be encouraged from many viewpoints, but responses cannot be structured by preconceived frameworks.  This means general knowledge must be widely disseminated, and meetings have to emphasize open communication.  Organizations need to build up the potential to act quickly to real situations.  To do so, managers must realize that the real power in organi-zations is generated by viable relationships, which encourage the flow of energy without regard to specific functions or levels.  Results are never predictable, but come about by circumstances that favor one outcome out of many possibilities.

        This book is a guide to the latest scientific theories and their practical application in the business world.  It presents a view of reality that is destined not only to change the way we look at nature but also how we approach our everyday lives.

 

 

The Politics of Expert Advice: Creating, Using and Manipulating Scientific Knowledge for Public Policy

by Anthony Barker & B. Guy Peters (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        This book is the first in-depth study of how scientific knowledge and opinion are used by government agencies in making public policy. While it is true that all fields of public policy in all political systems require expertise of some kind, the nature and complexity of that expert advice varies greatly. Some areas are innately more complex than others and require a great deal of scientific, mathematical, or statistical background. In many areas, scientific experts themselves lack the knowledge to solve a policy problem or manage policy decisions, and they can only offer suggestions based on their personal experience. To the layman manager, seeking out expert advice is often a perplexing matter.

        Using examples from state health care systems, the authors identify six levels of difficulty in seeking expert advice. At the simplest level are policy fields that contain elaborate detail but do not require input from experts. Such areas include the organization and monitoring of community doctors and medical records by the Department of Health. The next level contains more complex detail but also does not usually require expert advice. An example might be the organization and monitoring of hospital services or community nursing care. The data is harder to elicit and relies more on personal opinions. The third level exhibits some technical difficulty, but like the first two levels, is amenable to non-expert study. Prioritizing the distribution of scarce resources, such as kidney machines or building funds, is an example. Most laymen managers can come to an agreement as to the best course to take, although their decisions are open to criticism.

        At these first three levels of cognitive difficulty in public policy fields, there is scope for potential consultants, but they are usually not analytical experts as much as operational ones. Advisors at these levels can be used to establish and measure empirical data. They take surveys, make simple checks, or conduct case studies. The ideas of this type of administrative consultant is centered around elementary and clear-cut methods that supervising managers can readily understand. There are no arcane calculations or mysterious black-box procedures, whose operation the policy-maker must simply take on trust. Experts at these levels, whether in-house or out-of-house, can be made to explain every step in their work.

        The fourth level of complexity is the first to definitely require input from true experts. Only people with higher training in science or mathematics can fully appreciate the difficulty at this level. Statistical analysis of epidemiological data or probabilistic analysis of future health care needs are examples. The fifth level of cognitive difficulty is where the subject borders on the scientific unknowable, with rival and controversial scientific viewpoints. Examples include claimed cures or vaccines for diseases, or medical strategies for dealing with major threats such as AIDS. The sixth level, the highest degree of difficulty, is the beyond current scientific knowledge. There are no rival claims from experts, because the subject is scientifically unknowable. Examples are public policy decisions for the treatment of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's diseases, for which no known treatment exists.

        In these last three levels of difficulty in public policy fields, the status of the expert advisor has changed. For the manager, real technical difficulties overshadow mere elaborativeness or complexity of detail. At this point, experts can no longer explain themselves fully to people outside their fields. Only the exceptional manager has the specialized training to follow the language and techniques of the true expert. Most managers trust the opinions of an expert or seek to establish a consensus of opinion by such experts. At the highest levels of difficulty, experts cannot claim to know how to create solutions or even argue amongst themselves about the best solution.

        It is here that the manager faces his greatest dilemma. Public policy pressures often require managers and decision-makers to do something fast, but at the level of the unknown, expert advice of the usual kind, consisting of experience and reasoning, is no longer available. There is no time or funds to allow for further research. Sometimes the differing opinions of ideologues, politicians, or even visionaries and seers is all that is available. At this highest level of difficulty, the unquantifiable wisdom of decision-makers comes into play, for at the borders of scientific knowledge, an unselfish hunch, the proverbial shot-in-the-dark, is the best we can hope for.

 

 

Paradigm Shift: The New Promise of Information Technology

by Don Tapscott and Art Caston (McGraw-Hill)

Reviewed by Dennis William Hauck

 

        Recent computer problems at California's Department of Motor Vehicles underscore how difficult it is for government bodies to "reinvent themselves" using existing technology. Today's expensive computer systems can be surprisingly limited in function and painfully slow to get up and running. While everyone agrees that the old, unresponsive bureaucracy does not work in our ever-changing, faster-paced society, there are serious doubts whether modern computer systems will be able to provide the tools to make organizational rebirth possible.

        This book examines the experiences of leading edge organizations trying to enter the new information age. It looks at the problems and successes of a variety of corporations and government bodies based on surveys and investigations involving 4,500 organizations. Based on their research, the authors have concluded that the information age is entering a second era. It is obvious that no matter how long it takes, computer technology will effect every aspect of our daily lives. Managers in all types of organizations will be forced to reevaluate the way they make decisions and the way they handle their responsibilities.

        "A fundamental change is taking place in the nature and application of technology in business,' say the authors. "This change has profound and far-reaching implications for your organization and for you (as a manager). Driven by the demands of the new, competitive environment on the one hand and profound changes in the nature of computers on the other, the information age is evolving into a second era. Organizations that do not make this transition will fail. They will become irrelevant or cease to exist."

        The 1990s appears to be a decade of major transitions in the way organizations do business. Minor improvements in productivity and efficiency are no longer sufficient to meet the cost-containment demands of this decade. The trend in the 1980s was to reduce the number of employees and redistribute the existing workload to increase productivity, but the latest trend is improving organizational performance and effectiveness by increasing the "productivity of knowledge" using new data processing methods. These methods include source data capture, integrated transaction processing, real-time and expert systems, electronic data interchange, on-line decision making, and integrated document management systems. These new processes are replacing traditional paper-based systems that require labor-intensive clerical activities and multi-layered decision making bureaucracies. Increased productivity of knowledge directly influences the responsiveness, efficiency, outsourcing capabilities, and overall quality of any organization.

        The static, closed hierarchy is giving way to the dynamic, open networked organization, where the emphasis is on human resources and information. The is the new paradigm of the book's title. There are three critical stages in the application of computer technology that must take place before an organization moves into the new era. First is the shift from personal to work-group computing. Stand-alone computers do not encourage infra-office communication and often duplicate the work of others. The second stage is from system islands to integrated systems. Computer systems have evolved into three main areas or "islands" of control: management of physical assets; financial management; and human resource management. The next step is an integrated approach that uses information from all islands of activity to create real-time information that give modern managers tremendous decision-making advantages over traditional managers.

        The third critical stage that must be reached before an organization can fulfill the promise of information technology is the shift from internal to inter-enterprise computing. Traditional computing systems reflect the walls that exist between separate organizations. Today, however, computer systems are beginning to extend beyond the reach of their parent organizations. Government bodies are providing electronic information kiosk and computer bulletin board access to information that was previously only available to employees. Banks, insurance companies, and airlines, are also providing on-line access for their customers. Such expanded access strengthens customer satisfaction and increases the quality of customer service, while at the same time saving money for the organization.

        Emerging technologies, such as interactive databases and voice response systems, will build even stronger ties between government departments, businesses, and the general public. Only those managers able to travel at ease on the ever-expanding information highway will have the tools necessary to survive after the paradigm shift is complete.