Lessons on Community from Quantum Mechanics

Quantum Mechanics via: http://meetwonders.blogspot.com/2009/04/fw-some-more-beauties.html

Quantum Mechanics* is the study of the very smallest particles and energies that make up everything else. You. Me. This blog post. It says that these very small particles act strangely. They can be in two places at once (super position). They can be both “on” and “off” at the same time. But they only do these strange and delightful things when all other outside influences are removed. Things like light, heat, air etc.

In the TED talk below, quantum physicist Aaron O’Connell likens this to being alone in an elevator. You might do something in there alone (dance? check your teeth for food?).  You don’t do these things if others are in the elevator with you. Aaron was confused as to why only the very smallest particles behaved in these strange ways. Why not coffee cups or coins? After all, his reasoning went, if things like coffee cups are made of atoms which are made of quantum particles, shouldn’t the behaviors trickle up into the larger things? This had never been observed before.

Aaron designed an experiment with a piece of metal.  It is made of a community of quantum particles.  He wanted to see if he could enable the metal to act in a quantum manner.

It took some work to get the metal to reveal the nature of its community of quantum particles and behave quantumly.  All outside influences had to be removed.

  1. It was placed into vacuum. No stifling or flowing air to dampen or influence quantum behavior.
  2. It was placed in darkness.  No light to shine and draw focus on certain parts.  All parts were equally uninfluenced by outside focus.
  3. It was cooled down to near absolute zero.  No heat to stir things up and force entropy.
  4. Time. It was given time to reveal its strange and extraordinary nature.

When these conditions were met the metal started acting quantumly.  This is because it is made up of quantum particles whose individual behavior trickled up to the whole community when outside influences were removed.
Put those influences back – light, heat, air – and the metal, that community of particles stopped acting quantumly.

The community of atoms is influenced and defined by outside forces to behave normally. 

Consequently,  all of the amazing potential of quantum mechanics is hidden, trapped and remains below the surface.

Communities are a lot like collections of quantum particles.  How many businesses truly empower communities to deliver ground-breaking and delightfully amazing results?  How many communities and teams and collaboration groups do what is simply expected?  They create that report.  They make their top 3 recommendations.  They deliver incremental value.  In short, they act like that normal piece of metal.

But what if you created an environment where your communities could collaborate without that management hot head stirring up the heat?  What if there wasn’t a spot light and micromanagement put on the group? What if there was enough time for the quantum characteristics of the group to emerge?  Can you imagine the kind of innovation and advancement  you would unleash?

Do an experiment and see what happens.  Give the community a goal, a trajectory and let them amaze you.

*my apologies to my scientist friends for the gross oversimplification of quantum mechanics in this post.  But you get the point.

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