For many businesspeople, the switch from thinking about "place" and "pace" to thinking about "pattern" won't come easily. We asked author James Bailey for advice on how to make the transition to a mental model that fits the new digital economy.
1. Focus on what's changing. Old thinking is dominated by physics, a mathematical model that treats everything as if it were dead and sequential. A biological mind-set treats data, bits, thoughts, markets, and organizations as if they were inherently capable of change and growth. "You have to recognize that markets and organizations are alive and parallel," Bailey says.
2. Focus on relationships, not things. That's another weakness of a worldview governed by physics, Bailey says: "Physics is about the things themselves. That's why there are always experiments with objects like billiard balls. But what's important is not things, but the relationships between things."
3. Forget the bottom line. The very idea of a bottom line, Bailey argues, implies that business can be reduced to a single calculation or a final answer. But what really matters is process, history, how things develop and change — in a word, patterns. "If you can get the idea of 'the bottom line' out of your mind," he says, "you've already made a big step forward," he says.
4. Reexamine all your old ideas all the time. If you aspire to participate in the Information Age, Bailey says, then you have to be skeptical about the intellectual baggage you carry. "Examine your Industrial Age ideas," he urges. "Don't just accept them unthinkingly."
5. Spend a lot of time on the Web. On the Web, Bailey says, "the data are bigger than you are."
A version of this article appeared in the October/November 96 issue of Fast Company magazine.