Business, Education and Technology Journal Fall 1999


Dialougue-Skill Development By Daniel Eveleth, Ph.D., and Lori Baker-Eveleth, M.A.

A Quantum Metaphor Of Organizations: Implications For Business Education
By Jane Schmidt-Wilk, Ph.D., and Dennis P. Heaton, Ed.D.

The quantum metaphor has begun to be applied in management, contrasting with metaphors of the organization derived from classical physics. Metaphorically looking at organizations as quantum mechanical rather than classical phenomena shifts our attention from fixed roles to emergent possibilities, from discrete lines of authority to evolving networks of communication, and from mechanistic control to self-organization. As this shift is occurring in business practice, business education needs to adopt new perspectives and new educational technologies to enliven in students the characteristics described by the quantum metaphor. sical physics as discrete objects and events are, Introduction: Contrasting Quantum according to the quantum model, interconnected and Classical Models in Physics in underlying, holistic fields that move by virtue of their own internal dynamism. John Hagelin, a Morgan (1986, p. 13) has explained that “by usworld authority in the area of unified quantum field ing different metaphors to understand the comtheories, explains that the deepest advances in plex and paradoxical character of organizational quantum physics have revealed a single unified life, we are able to manage and design organifield: “Indeed, the entire universe, with all its dizations in ways that we may not have thought verse and multiform properties (charge, spin, possible before.” A metaphor from quantum color, flavor, etc.), is just a cosmic symphony— physics points in the direction of new perspecthe vibrational states (fundamentals and overtives and new possibilities in management practones) of a single, underlying, universal, unified tice and business education. Table 1 outlines field of nature’s intelligence” (Hagelin, 1998, p. contrasting points in the perspectives of classi48).
Table 1—Contrasting Models of Pyhsical Reality

Classical 1. from particles of inert matter 2. from location in space and time 3. from discrete parts 4. from mechanistic control

Quantum to lively fields of possibilities to non-localized to interconnecting whole to self-organization

cal and quantum physics and provides a framework for our discussion throughout the paper: The model of classical physics says that everything consists of particles of inert matter that can be precisely located in time and space and that move when acted upon by outside forces. In the view of quantum physics, by contrast, the universe consists of wholly conceptual, non-localized, non-material fields. What appear in clas-

The quantum metaphor may seem abstract (because quantum fields are abstract) but its qualities (outlined in Table 1) can be identified in our experience of using the Internet. First, the Internet can be seen as an abstract field of information, full of vast, latent possibilities, which manifest into specific particles of communication according to how the users interact with it. Second, we are getting more and more used to notions of phenomena that are not specified

Business, Education and Technology Journal Fall 1999


A Quantum Metaphor Of Organizations: Implications For Business Education By Jane Schmidt-Wilk, Ph.D., and Dennis P. Heaton, Ed.D.

in time and space. When we use the Internet, it matters little where sender and receiver are. Third, in a recent book on psychology and the Internet, Gackenbach, Guthrie, and Karpen have described the Internet as an interconnecting whole: The Internet has emerged as a single entity… displaying collective emergent behavior not evident or predictable from the parts involved, and rapidly showing itself to be a force that stirs and embodies the trends of the future in all areas of life. (1998, p. 322) The Internet, they observe, is a system with emergent properties which “itself adds new capabilities… significantly different than previous flat, static, local, technological and non-technological media and tools” (Gackenbach et al., 1998, p. 324). Finally, the classical metaphor of management does not fit the Internet, in that the Internet cannot be controlled in a top-down fashion – no one is in charge. Anyone with access to the Internet can create content, interact with anyone, and influence an emergent community of users.

Applying Physics Metaphors to Organizations
The model of classical physics has its counterpart in classical management theory with its principles of division of work and chain of command (Morgan, 1986). Wheatley (1992, p. 27) has observed how the Newtonian model of a mechanical universe was “captured by organizations in an emphasis on structure and parts…functions…roles. Page after page of organizational charts depict…the number of pieces, what fits where, who the big pieces are.” As quantum physics and its explanatory potential have become better understood, the quantum metaphor has begun to be applied in thinking about the changing nature of organizations (Zohar, 1997). For example, in the quantum view, particles are lively possibilities of underlying, continuous, non-material fields that pervade the universe (see Table 1, row 1). In an analogous way, the identities of organizations and of individual players seem less tied today to distinct and fixed structures and boundaries. We are becoming more accustomed to virtual organizations and ad hoc roles that can appear momentarily and then dissolve. While the form of our organizations is becoming more ephemeral, a candidate for the

more enduring substance of the organization is its culture. The organizational phenomena of culture, vision, and values have been described as unseen fields, which pervade the organization (Wheatley, 1992; Zohar & Marshall, 1994). The shift from inert matter to lively possibilities is also seen in the growing appreciation of non-material human capital. Writing in 1989, Gilder observed that the classical paradigm of a world composed of separate particles has become nothing other than “materialist superstition” (p. 120). He extended this “overthrow of matter” in physics to “the overthrow of matter in business organization” (Gilder, 1989, p. 116), observing that the dominant nations and corporations are those that have mastered not land and material resources but technologies and ideas. Building on this view, corporations today are identifying knowledge, information, and intelligent systems as the critical business resource: The Industrial Age notion that the worth of a business should be measured mainly in terms of its goods and property no longer holds . . . . In the Digital Age, the single most important attribute of a successful company is the ability to collect data, sort through it to determine which information is most important, and then make that information widely and easily accessible to its workforce. (Microsoft, 1999) The non-localized aspect of quantum reality (Table 1, row 2) can be seen in innovations such as flex-time, telecommuting, pagers/cell phones, and 7 day x 24 hour customer service, all of which are obliterating the old space-time boundaries. Negroponte (1995) is one of many authors who believe that we are evolving toward a mode of digital living that is less dependent on being in a specific place at a specific time. Fields organize events, which seem separate in space and time. If organizations are like quantum fields, then the thinking and activity of their members can be highly correlated with each other without extensive layers of management (Harung, 1999). Zohar and Marshall (1995) see culture as quantum phenomena which pervades the organization creating non-local correlations between the behavior of its members. Our understanding of organizations is also illuminated by shifting to the quantum model of interconnected wholeness from the classical model of discrete parts (Table 1, row 3). A quantum view of the universe means we will see individual selves and our organizations as

Business, Education and Technology Journal Fall 1999


A Quantum Metaphor Of Organizations: Implications For Business Education By Jane Schmidt-Wilk, Ph.D., and Dennis P. Heaton, Ed.D.

inter-related rather than independent. Ray (1993, pp. 4-5) writes of a new paradigm based on “wholeness and connectedness” and “doing business from our most profound inner awareness and in connection with the consciousness of others and the earth.” Relationships among customers and suppliers are becoming boundaryless, as the systems within trading partners become more seamlessly integrated with each other. An implication of this changing world-view, Wheatley (1992) observes, is that we will move away from the model of the lonely hero who makes things happen by applying force and traveling great distances. We do seem to be shifting from organizations directed by classical bosses to more quantum-like teams and networks (Manz & Sims, 1993). Finally, the quantum model elicits a shift from mechanistic control to self-organization (Table 1, row 4). Whereas the machine model of management based on classical physics emphasizes control through structure and imposed authority, a quantum model describes pervasive fields that organize themselves. Wheatley (1992) posits that a quantum approach in organizations means a move from managers who use force to direct others to a fluid system of relationships with mutual inter-influence. She (1992) further suggests the possibility of an organization which moves gracefully in the unfolding dance of order already lively in the self-organizing universe (Jantsch, 1980). Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1995, p. 8) presents a vision that management can utilize the “organizing power of Natural Law … automatically maintaining the well coordinated relationship of everything with everything else.”

found growing in the life of the student through the experience of the abstract field of transcendental consciousness underlying the activity of the thinking mind. Students at M.U.M. practice the Transcendental Meditation technique, which is also referred to as a technology for fathoming the Unified Field of all the Laws of Nature. This experience of the field nature of consciousness during the TM technique develops managers who naturally enact quantum qualities such as holistic thinking (Gustavsson, 1992), synergistic team functioning (Schmidt-Wilk, 1996) and spontaneous peak performance (Harung, Heaton, Graff and Alexander, 1996).

The quantum metaphor highlights the qualities business education needs to develop to keep up with changes in management practice. It enables us to see ourselves in ways that are less concrete and more abstract, less limited and more free, less isolated and more related in coherent wholes. Metaphorically looking at organizations as quantum mechanical rather than classical phenomena shifts our attention from fixed roles to emergent possibilities, from discrete lines of authority to evolving networks of communication, and from mechanistic control to self-organization. We have identified the Transcendental Meditation program as an educational technology, which opens awareness to an unbounded field of possibilities to enliven quantum qualities in the student.

About the Authors:
Jane Schmidt-Wilk, Ph.D. and Dennis P. Heaton, Ed.D. School of Business and Public Administration Maharishi University of Management Fairfield, IA 52557 Jane Schmidt-Wilk, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Public Affairs at Maharishi University of Management, where she teaches courses in management and communication skills. Her research explores the development of top management teams in international settings. She has written on organizations as fields of consciousness in

Bringing the Quantum Metaphor to Life
Business education today needs to develop its students to succeed in the new organizational environment described by the quantum metaphor. We have seen the abstract quantum principles come to life in the “unified field-based approach” to management education utilized at Maharishi University of Management (M.U.M.). At M.U.M., the Unified Field is presented as the foundation of management, and all the parts of business administration are seen as expressions of qualities of the unified field, such as all possibilities, omnipresent, integrating, infinite correlation, freedom, and self-sufficiency. These qualities are

Business, Education and Technology Journal Fall 1999


A Quantum Metaphor Of Organizations: Implications For Business Education By Jane Schmidt-Wilk, Ph.D., and Dennis P. Heaton, Ed.D.

the 1999 book “Invincible Leadership” published by Maharishi University of Management Press. Dr. Dennis Heaton is Chair of the Department of Management and Public Affairs at Maharishi University of Management, and teaches Management Information Systems and Human Resource Management. He has a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from Boston University. He is the author of numerous chapters and articles on higher stages of individual and organizational development. Maharishi University of Management (formerly Maharishi International University 1971-1995) is a non-denominational institution of higher education accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. M.U.M. offers undergraduate and masters’ and doctoral degree programs in the arts, sciences, humanities, business, engineering and computer science to students on-site at its Fairfield, Iowa, campus, and at-a-distance around the globe. The M.U.M. curriculum integrates traditional education with systematic technologies of consciousness to develop the full potential of the individual. In 1995, the name of the University was changed from Maharishi International University to Maharishi University of Management to emphasize the practical application of knowledge for managing all areas of life–both personal and professional.

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