posted 1 Mar 2000 in Volume 3 Issue 6
Title: Rewiring the Corporate Brain
Author: Danah Zohar
Publisher: Berrett Koehler, 1997
This is a grand book for people who are interested in the relationship between knowledge management and the application of the 'new science' to organisational transformation. Written in 1997, this book may be new to professionals in knowledge management (as it was to me). Zohar does not reference knowledge management or any of the disciplines or practices of knowledge management specifically, but her descriptions of the distinctions among three types of intelligence, three types of thinking, and three models for organisational structure and leadership should resonate particularly for knowledge management practitioners.
Using our current understanding of the sciences of the brain and the atom, Zohar carefully defines serial, associative, and quantum thinking. Serial thinking (and its associated manner of 'knowing') is related to what we are used to calling explicit knowledge. This is orderly, mechanical, reasonable, and receptive to codification, classification, and logic. For the second type of thinking, which we would equate to tacit knowledge, she uses the term associative, indicating that the knowing or thinking that is implied is based on the brain's ability to unconsciously make and store connections among physical and mental events. Then she provides what we might think of as the 'next' type of knowledge to understand and leverage, quantum thinking.
Quantum thinking is 'creative, insightful, intuitive thinking...the kind of thinking with which we challenge our assumptions, break our habits, or change our mental models, our paradigms.' As we would surmise from the analogy, quantum thinking is not determinate and is entirely contextual. In quantum physics, the object we view changes based on the fact that we are viewing it. In quantum thinking, the act of knowing occurs in the moment and is completely outside of what can be identified or captured. The primary vehicle through which quantum thinking emerges is dialogue, the proper facilitation of which is what we might call a new form of knowledge management.
Organisational structures and leadership models reflect these same three types of thinking, which themselves reflect complete world-views: the Newtonian/Western (mechanical, serial, explicit), the Eastern (connected, associative, tacit), and the quantum (contextual, open to change, striving for breakthrough). What is most compelling in understanding these distinctions is how the quantum model itself requires the incorporation and internalisation of both of the other two. It is not the case that we operate in a single context, but that we have the capacity to maintain both views and ways of being while we accustom ourselves to the quantum world.
Knowledge management, as we know the field, has given professionals in a variety of disciplines (information systems, human resources, customer relationship management, and many more) a common language, and (we hope) some common management practices and disciplines. Rewiring the Corporate Brain is one of a number of books that help us extend this language. The notion of quantum thinking as denoting a third type of knowledge opens a number of opportunities for dialogue on how to manage, not the 'stuff' of knowledge (tacit and explicit), but the conversations that create it.
Patti Anklam is Technology Group Knowledge Manager at Compaq. She can be contacted at: