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Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World Paperback – September 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 3rd edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576753441
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576753446
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Margaret Wheatley is president of The Berkana Institute and an internationally acclaimed speaker and writer. She has been an organisational consultant and researcher since 1973. Her clients and audiences range from the head of the U.S. Army to twelve-year-old Girl Scouts, from CEOs to small town ministers

Customer Reviews

I may even read another of Meg's books.
Robert Wickman
Wheatley makes a great case here for how the new science (quantum science and chaos theory) turns our old linear way of thinking on its head.
Marty Jacobs
Her language is flowery and a little too ADD for my taste.
Book Lover

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark on January 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
I recently completed a masters thesis in educational leadership and my supervisor wanted me to read this book because it inspired her greatly. She gave this book in the hopes that it would link my background in science to a "new" science in leadership. My background is in biology with a masters degree in zoology. The thesis dragged on, because my supervisor and I are at philosophical odds with each other.

Wheatley's book is not about science. It is "new" age metaphor and it makes absurd connections between physics and leadership. It is the woo-woo terminology that Deepak Chopra uses in his connections between science and the mystical. It was a struggle making a philosophical connection with my supervisor and I blame this book. This book influenced my supervisors way of thinking about science and it is quackery. Her views on this book is shared by many of the positive reviews I have read in here. This view is based on an illiterate understanding of what science is and what it can be and is based more on a hope that somehow science can become something more appealing of what you might want it to be. It is liked by the person who wants science to be more liberal and open to the endless possibilities. Science works largely because reality beyond your personal hormonal physiology and homeostasis is impartial to the way you might feel about it.

I admit that there is a history of reductionistic philosophy that has overextended and pushed the application of its winning principles from the law-like fabric of matter into dynamic complexity of the life sciences. The two do not match. However, we still have to use reason, logic and evidence to make inferences about theory. Science is not just about fancy terminology that makes us feel good about certain connections!
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28 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Rick on November 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
I had to buy this book for a college course and I wouldn't have read it otherwise. The author tries to lull the reader into a passive state by hitting them with a bunch of science at the beginning. Its sort of like a Certs commercial...it has Retsyn, so it must be good.

Once you trim away her fancy lingo, her leadership ideas offer nothing new. She says things like information must be shared by all parties, complacency is bad for organizations and communication is important. Anyone who does not know this should buy a book on common sense instead.

If you think fortune cookies have a lot of wisdom to offer, then you will love this book. If you want some real leadership guidance, you may want to buy Schein or Bolman and Deal instead.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Recent grad on February 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
I'm an undergrad who was required to read this for a learning complex organizations class and despite the negative top reviews from students, I hope that this review will offer a different insight.

I agree that Wheatley's book doesn't offer any "new" insights especially when if you read this along with Senge, but she offers a very interesting and dynamic way of looking at these key concepts. I don't have a background in science, but I think that anyone who has a physics background will have a greater appreciation for the references that she makes. That being said, by no means do you need a science background to understand her connections because she does a good job or summarizing her points.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan K. Hanson on July 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have had this book on my shelf since its original publication; recommended reading from numerous and varied teachers working to help me answer my questions about......everything.....but whose guidance I was unable to comprehend and make my own at that time.

In the intervening 20+ years, life has provided me with numerous.......opportunities.......to cultivate a personal readiness to both hear the message of Ms. Wheatley's book and embrace the "chaos" wherever it takes me.

This is an important book and should be central to any discussion on the evolving role of leadership in a world defined by self-organizing networks versus highly structured command and control organizations.
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Johnson on June 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was required to purchase the hardcover edition of this book for a graduate school leadership class some years ago. At $23 for 151 pages of widely spaced text, it clearly was going for the quality over quantity market, but did not deliver. To the contrary, I was left with the conviction that I had been scammed. As I read the positive reviews on this book, the image that comes to mind is that of the populace oohing and aahing over the vivid colors and delicate textures of the Emperor's new clothes.

As other negative reviewers have commented, Wheatley's efforts to analogize from "new science" principles to management theory would be better served by a more accurate understanding of those principles. Though I'm no scientist, I've read enough to know that her descriptions of those principles were driven by the need to fit them into whatever flowery metaphor she had in mind.

I have a theory that the more often a writer uses the words "we" and "our" to define the social or cultural conditions being discussed, the more incoherent, irrational or actively anti-rational his or her ideas will be. According to Wheatley:

On equilibrium: "In a universe that is on a relentless road to death, we live in great fear. . . . In venerating equilibrium, we hide from the processes that foster life.. . . . Can we dump these thermodynamics and get to the heart of things?"

On Newtonian principles: "In our day-to-day search for order and prediction, we are driven crazy because of non-local causality. . . . The now-you-see-it, now-you-don't quality of these [elusive, fuzzy-world] boundaries will continue to drive us crazy a long as we try to delineate them. . . .
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