Organizations Moving at Superluminal Speeds

You heard it here first.

Princeton, New Jersey physicists have accomplished the "impossible" by breaking the universe's speed limit (186,000 miles per second). They accomplished this awesome feat by sending a pulse of laser light through cesium vapor so quickly that it left the chamber before it had even finished entering, thereby reaching "superluminal speed."

For the business folks who are still trying to "push the envelope" (exceeding the sound barrier), the have a new horizon to reach for.

Just think of the spectrum of metaphor possibilities suggested by the characteristics of reaching superluminal speed:

  • Light is distorted.
  • The laser pulse exits the chamber in nearly the same shape that it enters, but with less intensity.
  • Although the pulse looks like a straight beam, it actually behaves like waves of light particles.
  • The light can leave the chamber before it has finished entering.
  • The effect is possible only because light has no mass.

Talk about shaking up our belief system. It is as hard for us to accept challenges to Einstein's Theory of Relativity as it was for our ancestors to accept that the earth is not the center of the universe.

As with all new discoveries, no one can say what applications will unfold. One possibility is to exponentially increase the speed of computers by carrying information in light particles. (It looks like Moore's Law might get an extension on life, after all.)

To be fair, there is a challenger. Aephraim Steinberg, a physicist at the University of Toronto suggests that the light that exited the chamber is not the same light that entered the chamber. He is quick to add, however, that "The interesting thing is how did they manage to produce light that looks exactly like something that didn't get there yet?" An enigma wrapped inside a riddle, shrouded in a mystery....

Now, flashing back to business...

Too many business leaders are frustrated by the effort to achieve profound organizational change. They feel that they have run smack into a wall of impervium and decide that it simply can't be penetrated. That impervium is the mind's resistance to change.

Light bends more easily than minds.

As John Kenneth Galbraith once said, "Faced with a choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."

Thanks to the example now set by physicists, change champions have reason to persevere, believing that even in the densest and darkest bureaucracies, they might find light at the end of the tunnel.