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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 02-Feb-14


Sunday 02-Feb-14


What is inertialessness? I had a conversation about it recently with a friend who writes the splendid Sources of Insight web. It's an idea I played with years ago for an organizational design that allows it to turn on a penny, and has a general focus on change.

Here's notes I made about it.

The physical principles of inertia are a good metaphor for how it could work in a company. Newton?s first law and all that. As a first notion, I like this definition:

Inertia: the resistance an object has to a change in its state of motion.

Inertia is measured as resistance to change in rotation.

I = m x r^2

Where I = moment of inertia, m = mass and r = distance between axis and rotation mass.

Total inertia is also a summation: I = ∑i mi ri2 = m1 r12 + m2 r22 + ..... + mnrn2

You can do something like this with companies, too, summing the effective mass and virtual distance.

So mass is important as is the distance of the center of gravity from the turn point. How do you measure mass? Maybe by resource, a combination of heads, resources and investment (because surely the past is very influential in organizational inertia).An easy way to inertialessness is to outsource everything, sustaining only a very small core (it?s almost the man and dog story). I?d suspect you can do a lot in here with crowds and clouds.

Where are the turn points and center of gravity in companies? Note how distance is squared, making this a highly influential factor. How can you bring the turn points closer to the center? In the information and communication age, there?s few excuses.

Mostly resistance is about people. It happens in heads and there?s much to do in reducing resistance to change. In Tai Chi, the exponent feels the root of the other and breaks it, constantly keeping them unstable so they can be moved anywhere quickly. Related to this, it?s about being on the edge, between order and chaos, stability and shift, and so on.

A way to destabilize is to sustain an experimental culture. Rapid innovation, development, failure and learning. And to sustain this passion without wearing people out means celebrating every stage, so even when they?re failing, people feel like they are contributing. We?ve all been on projects that got canned and seen other folks get all the credit just because their project somehow got past random hurdles. There?s also a role in all this for a corporate jester, a truth teller, a stimulator, a shaker of inertial thinking.

Inertialessness also needs sensitivity to external forces. Companies aren?t moved unless they feel the force, and sometimes they are so aerodynamic the winds of change blow right past them, at least until the hurricane picks them up and breaks them. The filter from detection to decision also may well need attention. It?s easy to either filter out the diamonds or get smothered by the dirt.

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