Leading into the Future III: From the Pendulum to the Fire

Leading into the Future III: From the Pendulum to the Fire

As adults, we often focus on the outcomes of our children’s creative work. We admire their drawings of sunsets or battles among alien forces. Yet, our children tend to focus on the process of drawing. Their picture is not a static portrait. Rather it is story that is unweaving as the child places various lines on the page. In a similar manner we must often focus on the ways in which decisions are made in organizations, or the styles being used to manage employees, rather than focusing on the final decisions that are made or the relative success of the employee’s performance. Unfortunately, organizational processes (like fires) are elusive. They are hard to measure and even harder to document in terms of their ultimate impact on an organization.

Pendulums or Fires?

Pendulums operate in a quite different manner from fire. First, the movement of a pendulum is quite predictable, whereas fire is very unpredictable. Once we know the initial parameters of the pendulum (length of stem, force being applied when pendulum is first pushed in a specific direction, and so forth) we can predict virtually everything of importance about this mechanistic and relatively closed system. Even without this initial information, we can readily predict the future movement of the pendulum after observing its trajectory once or twice.

A second important feature of the pendulum that makes it a favorite of many modern-day scientists is its primary connection to one of the central building blocks of Newtonian science, namely, gravity. While fire seems to defy or at least be indifferent to gravity, flickering about as if it was without weight or form, our noble pendulum provides clear evidence that gravity is present and operating in a uniform and predictable manner on objects of substance. The pendulum is a tool that readily is transformed into a technology (for example, the Swiss watch), based on its dependability and conceptual accessibility. Fire, by contrast, can burn and rage uncontrolled. Once started, fires tend to take on a life of their own, seemingly defying the laws of entropy. Pendulums gradually lose energy and obey the laws of entropy. They will stop when they receive inadequate attention and never rage out of control.

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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