Euclidean management

Posted: July 21, 2010 in Uncategorized
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If we have a flourishing of (mostly nonsensical) papers and books on “complexity theory” and management, why do we not have a Non-Euclidean Management Theory yet?

Geometry offers plenty of occasions for elucubrations of all kind, and surely a rich management theory, post-tayloristic as well as post-prigoginian, could be developed out of that.

Take the simple shapes we study in secondary school, such as circles, triangles or squares. If you think about it for a while, you will admit that you actually never encountered any of them in Nature.

The most technologically-advanced and accurately crafted circle is far from perfect: inspect it with a sufficiently precise microscope, and you will notice the imperfections. Today, we could build a circle using a scanning force microscope (SFM): a nano tool allowing to move individual atoms. But in the end, what we have is still a relatively rough contour: optical microscopes would show a perfect circle, but an SFM would reveal the trick!

Perfect figures only exist in geometry books. And they do not belong in this world: they are idealizations of reality, platonic ideas.

Equally, mathematical models, economic theories, information systems and organizational models of all sorts are not but idealizations of the real enterprise.

What to make of this simple fact of life?

Can a management theory based on things that really don’t exist bring us any useful practice? When we study or approach a business, are we looking at the real thing or merely at a useless idealized model? Is management theory (whether “complex” or not) a world of cartoons?

And mind you, this is only the starting point of the new Theory, the tip of an iceberg. Indeed, not only the real enterprise is hardly reducible to idealized models: but, even if you limit yourself to dealing with the models, well, they do not obey the ordinary rules that we learned at school.

Circles, triangles and squares belong in a non-Euclidean world, where straight parallels cross, the shortest path is a curve, and what you see is not what you get.

We need a new Geometry of Management, a realistic one. A Non-Euclidean Management Theory.

  1. This was supposed to be a sarcastic post.
    I posted it on a few LinkedIn groups revolving around “pop” complexity, and a whole lot of people took it seriously…

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