The theory thing

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2017

I’ve lost track of the number of articles I’ve written over the years. The count is over 60, that’s for sure. Some were quite popular, I hear. Others, well, I may have thought they were great but readers didn’t jump up and down in delight. It just goes to show us, no one really knows which thoughts will become popular and which ones will fall off the radar. And, even for the more popular theories floating around, they too tend to die off after a while, sometimes never to be heard from again.

I guess you would say that flux of ideas from popular to unpopular and back again and away forever is kind of sad. Why can’t we fall on a certain leadership theory and stick with it. A good theory stays popular, doesn’t it? Well, not so, according to theoretical thinkers…

Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), a fellow I’ve mentioned often, is one of the world’s greatest thinkers of theoretical evolution. He says that theories change by ever so unnoticeable differences until wham, a crisis hits and current theories jump up to new levels of thinking. In effect, in crisis times, old theories go away and new theories sprout. Those evolutionary theoretical times build on previous theories but the crisis theories can change thinking to new levels.

Theories and Change

So it makes no sense for current theories to remain popular because our business world constantly changes. New theories pop up to handle new thinking. For example, I ride a train to and from work. Been riding trains for over 20 years. I like riding the trains for the chance to think, get caught up on news, relax, and chat with fellow passengers. However, those chats, which I used to really enjoy, are fewer and fewer because of a certain crisis - mobile phones.

Conversational chatter between train-mates was pretty darn popular 20 years ago. Some talks were basic weather and sports related, but other conversation got heavily involved into politics, business, and behavior. Now, though, these personal computers have sent a crisis through the train community. Instead of conversation, I swear, 100% of passengers are looking at who-knows-what on their phones. Gee, I’ve been guilty myself, cruising through data accounts or emails. Instead of chatter, trains are quiet. And, if anyone does talk, which is rare, others seem perturbed.

Phone Chatter

So, back to the business front, the same types of things hitting my train-world are hitting the workplace. Phones are ubiquitous and, some people take them to an extreme, constantly checking their phones when they ought to be doing something else. I wonder how they get any work done. We can’t blame the millennial generation, either. I see people in all age groups tapping away.

What are we to do? Well, I hate to say it, but I don’t know. And, it’s not just cell phones that are eating us up. People don’t care to work overtime anymore. In fact, they don’t care to work eight hour days. The working environment has hit a crisis, meaning the next big theory is about to come to fruition. The problem is no one really knows what that next big theory is. Sure, we can take guesses, but I’m not seeing any successful tactics.

The point of all this is to say it’s best to never become comfortable or complacent in a working environment. Things change. Sometimes by little amounts, other times via crises. We’re in a transitional stage at the moment, waiting for the next shoe to drop (I suspect there are more than two). I think it’s kind of exciting, like waiting for Christmas. We know some sort of change is on the horizon, but we don’t know what that change is or when it will hit. But, I do know we as business leaders need to change our ways of thinking, otherwise we'll be left in the unemployment line.

Thanks for listening.

“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.” [John Wilmot].

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About The Author

Duane Dike
Duane Dike

Duane Dike is the manager of creative production for a large entertainment company in Southern California. He has a doctorate in management and organizational leadership and an MBA in management. He is a popular guest speaker for education and management groups on subjects related to innovation, leadership and thinking.