Shifting Metaphors 1


Shifting Metaphors

Metaphors, often unknowingly, shape our world views. In Shifting Metaphors, Quantum Logik Consulting explores existing and emerging ideas and highlights how they shape current thinking and could influence transformational paradigms.

Most people are familiar with the concept of homeostasis, that is an organism’s tendency to remain constant on the inside. It is a concept that has been around since the 1860s and was coined in the 1920s. You can see the metaphor in how we structure our companies and in strategies. When the marketplace changes, we see calls to “protect the core” and maybe incremental changes to organizational structure. The problem is that this is not a dynamic paradigm. Internal stability should not be the goal. Thriving within our changing environments is.

In the 1980s, neuroscientists created the concept of allostasis, meaning “remaining stable by being variable[1],” to reflect the fact that bodies change to answer challenges presented by the outside world. Tor Norretranders, in his essay for[2], summarizes it nicely when he writes

Constancy isn’t the ideal: the ideal is to have the relevant inner state for the particular outer state.

If we think about his example of blood pressure, it becomes clear. In the event of danger, our pulse rises, increasing awareness and availability of energy to take quick action. Our insides are anything but constant. The brain has mobilized all available resources to meet the challenge, and we survive. Thus, we can see why having a homeostasis mindset limits our organizations’ ability to compete.

An additional wrinkle to adopting the allostasis mindset is that you find you must be more forward looking. As homeostasis tells us to make things as they were, allostasis is about understanding what is to come so we can prime our inner state to match new challenges. Therefore, prediction and predicting a range of scenarios, colorfully called “controlled hallucinations”, becomes one of the most important functions of the brain or executive function.

Given the accelerating pace of change and convergence of disparate technologies, we feel management must move from a homeostasis mindset to an allostasis mindset. That is, breaking away from static structures, restrictive resource commitment, and linear thinking, and moving toward a culture and structure that embraces and thrives in the inevitably changing environment.

This will be a constant theme for Quantum Logik Consulting. We hope to help you and your organization find success and “stability through variability.”