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The theory behind ‘quantum ideas’

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Physicist Gerald Harris uses the study of quantum mechanics, or the action of tiny particles, to shed light on decision-making.

As with many unconventional thinkers, Harris winds up with a set of questions he calls “quantum ideas.”

Here are some of his more accessible ones:

On duality: This is roughly the fallacy that an event means only one thing, and that one thing causes another thing. 

Our thoughts and ideas are really quite arbitrary. Ask: Have conditions changed since I formed my initial opinion? Am I holding onto this idea just because it’s mine? 

On uncertainty: What do you think you “know” that may not actually be true? Where’s the proof? If conditions changed, would reality change? Ask: Am I open to constant learning so I can adapt to a changing environment?

On reality: Would a shift in point of view help me see something differently? Does the way we describe something alter what it is? Could it become something else? Do I have an open mind?

On space, time and order: Are we locked into a “this-comes-before-that” scenario? “This” before “that” is an illusion, not reality. Consider different time zones across the country; there’s no such thing as “absolute” time. What might shift the order of our thinking?

On catalysts: Some things change the whole picture. In 1995, a manufacturer invented a small set of cameras embedded in a poker table, allowing viewers to see players’ cards. Suddenly, poker fans could watch strategy unfold in the middle of a game, and televised poker exploded into a multibillion-dollar industry. What “little things” creeping in from around the edges could create huge changes?

On possibilities: Is there anything I view as impossible? How might my own ideas and actions feed back into my strategy?

— Adapted from The Art of Quantum Planning, Gerald Harris, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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