The Entrepreneur’s Mind: Part Newtonian, Part Quantum. How much of each are you?

Sometimes the entrepreneurial mind is not exactly normal – today is clearly one of those times.  Reading the latest Stephen Hawing (& Leonard Mlodinow) book tonight, The Grand Design, has reminded me of the difference between deterministic Newtonian physics and the probabilistic nature of Quantum Physics with it’s wave/particle duality.  The strange thought I had was how this could relate to those days when everything is normal at work (deterministic Newtonian physics) and those occasional very special days when the idea juices flow, the path to inspiration is anything but normal, but the result exceeds the daily expectation (non-intuitive Quantum physics).

If you did physics at school you may remember the test, called Young’s Fringes, which proves that light is a wave.  You fire a beam of light at a plate which obstructs the light, but which has two vertical slits in it, one either side of the centre line of the light source.  If you place a second plate behind the one with the two slits in you get an alternating pattern of dark and light bands.  This pattern is caused by the interference (constructive and destructive) of waves emanating through the two slits – where the wave crests or troughs coincide (constructive) you get twice the light and where the crest of one wave meets the trough of another they cancel out leaving a dark area (destructive).

If you were to kick footballs through the same two plate arrangement because they are particles they would not create this wave pattern would they? – you’d just get two piles of balls at the second plate each pile in a line from the kicker and each slit.  Good old Newtonian physics that.  So electrons are particles just like footballs so they will behave the same – no! Quantum physics says they travel all possible paths at the same time and hence act like waves and create an interference pattern with constructive peaks and destructive gaps – what???  Particularly non-intuitive is our Quantum physics, the physics of very small things – with no idea of when very small things that follow Quantum physics ‘rules’ become large enough that they then follow Newtonian physics ‘rules’ – eek!  (Read the book to learn more – it’s actually very well written.)

So what has all this to do with entrepreneurs I hear you ask?  The thought struck me that day in, day out the average person (of which I am happily one most of the time) acts in a largely logical, deterministic fashion just like the Newtonian deterministic view of the world – understand the initial conditions and you’ll understand what will happen.  But every now and again the entrepreneur will follow all sorts of weird and wonderful paths just as in the Quantum world with no set initial condition (I forgot to mention that another Quantum oddness is you can’t measure both position and velocity in the quantum world, only one or the other) and anything but a defined output.  What this entrepreneurial journey will get you is either constructive (more than the sum of the parts) or unfortunately destructive (nice idea, didn’t work out) – you can’t see or predict the result before the journey, you’ve no idea of the route taken, it isn’t likely to be strictly logical, but could well have an amazing result.

So I conclude that I am largely Newtonian, with a dollop of Quantum weirdness thrown in that hopefully is more constructive than destructive.

Now all we need is Stephen Hawking and the rest to come up with the single unified theory of everything and then maybe we can all be constructive entrepreneurs all of the time!

About Julian Ranger

Please see http://www.jranger.com/

Posted on October 26, 2010, in Entrepreneurship and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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