Ilya Prigogine won the Nobel Prize in 1977 for his Theory of Dissipative Structures. His theory bridges the gap between biological and scientific social fields.
In fact, the Nobel Prize committee called Prigogine
“the poet of thermodynamics”.
His theory states, in the language of chemistry and mathematics, the spiritual perspective that we are all one with the world.
The heart of his message is
“We interact with nature…. matter is not inert; it is alive and active and always changing”
Anything that takes in and dissipates energy is a Dissipative Structure. When the perturbations are significant it changes the structure. When this happens, one of two things happen:
- It Dies
- It transforms (relaxes) into a more sophisticated structure. It escapes to a higher order. Each increase in complexity requires more energy from its environment.
Rule: the more complex the structure, the greater the energy flow needed for it to survive. This is a two-edge sword. As the structure gets more complex it becomes more fragile.
Humans seem to be the most complex structure. When Earthians are perturbed they either:
- Jump to a higher level of competence
- They die.
This perturbation has often been called “stress”.
Research has shown that stress is actually good for you.
Brain scientist Robert Thatcher validated the importance of perturbation in learning and intelligence.
He uses the metaphor of a discordant jazz band where each member is following a different time signature and tempo and then suddenly snapping in a waltz at precisely 120 beats per minute.
The waltz-like part is called phase-locking.
When this is tracked with an EEG there is something else happening, the opposite of phase-locking. The effect is not unlike turning the dial on an AM radio.
There are periods of structured, rhythmic patterns interrupted by static and noise of what Prigogine calls perturbations. Perturbation is where the creative connections happen; the “Ah Ha” moments emerge from here.
On average, Perturbation lasts fifty-five (55) milliseconds. Thatcher noticed something very peculiar: Some brains had a tendency to remain longer in perturbation.
What he found out:
Important point: The longer you can keep yourself in the perturbative state the brighter you are.
Second important point: you can train yourself to stay longer and longer in the perturbative state.
For me, dissipative behavior thrives best in organizations with the proper context.
For example, which one of these two novitiate priests is more likely to get a “yes” answer from their superior? They each want to do the same thing: smoke and pray simultaneously.
“Is it OK to smoke while I am praying?” asks one.
“Is it OK to pray while I am smoking?” asks the other.
What has been done above is a reversal of contexts. As you can see, “context matters!!!”
Start by having each member of the organization who is part of an emergent company to understand the difference between “perturbation” and “phase locking”. If you want to create greater ideas you have to perturbate.
In perturbation an organization is usually not comfortable. It is the opposite of phase-locking. Yet the longer one or an organization can stay in the perturbative state the higher the probability of creative emergence.
We are now live on liquid-turf (stability is basically gone). This is a structural change. This generally means there is higher the probability of emergence. This emergent state allows the person or organization to adapt to the myriad of liquid-turf changes.
One of the best tools to do this is Peter Senge’s article In his book, The Fifth Discipline. In it he presents “Dialogue/Discussion”. The longer you can stay in Dialogue state the higher probability for an elegant solution. My experience is this takes practice; the more you do this the better your outcomes.
Perturbation feels something like a low-grade flu.
It is not comfortable like “Phase Locking”.
Once your team experiences the power of perturbation and genuinely embraces it the better. Doing this is a strategic advantage.
Start feeling your perturbation; make it your friend.
The more you are able to do this;
- the more creative you will become
- the higher your IQ will be.
I am a comprehensivist:
“What can I do for you?”
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