Monday, June 1, 2009

Thoughts triggered by GM"s current situation.

Ilya Prigogine, a Nobel prize winning chemist, suggests giving up the Aristotelian notion of past, present and future. He says that the future is truly undetermined and we have to create it as we go. “Time is a creation,” he emphasizes. “The future is just not there.” Prigogine won his Nobel prize in 1977 for his theory of “dissipative structures” which covers all open systems that exchange energy with their environment. Because they’re constantly interacting with the outside world, they’re very sensitive to signals about change. At certain bifurcation points, changes amplify into disturbances so large that the system comes apart - but it then reconfigures itself at a higher, more complex level that’s better able to handle the new conditions.

Prigogine observed that open systems tend to hesitate for a moment at the bifurcation point before assuming their new form. These self-organizing systems can be thought of as more resilient than stable. A dissipative structure can be a chemical solution or a human being or a corporation. But the pattern of change is the same in that disruption is the doorway to transformation.

Prigogine’s way of conceptualizing change - that we’re all shaken up ‘till we fall apart - was also observed 50-years earlier by the famous historian, Arnold Toynbee, who in A Study of History, wrote about the role of challenges in creating greatness. “Man achieves civilization as a response to a challenge in a situation of special difficulty which rouses him to make a hitherto unprecedented effort,” says Toynbee. A sudden crushing defeat in war can be just the impetus a society needs to set its house in order. “Peoples occupying frontier positions, exposed to constant attack, achieve a more brilliant development than their neighbors in more sheltered positions.”

However, even when a society has mastered great challenges, such as when the Ottoman Empire reached its fullest expansion, it can sometimes decay because of “a fatal rigidity.” But the areas we fear the most, those that tend to engender in us a fatal rigidity, may just be those that hold the greatest promise of transformation.

In a world of rapid change, we need to consciously reexamine the paradigms and ruling metaphors that guide our perceptions. We tend to automatically use ruling metaphors such as “rule the world” to describe and organize our fundamental relationships. I hope that those charged with reorganizing GM recognize they need to move their metaphors from mechanics to biology, and from control to coexistence.

1 comment:

Jarrod said...


Tks very much for post:

I like it and hope that you continue posting.

Let me show other source that may be good for community.

Source: General Motors interview questions

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