“It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us;
it binds the galaxy together.”
– Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
Yes, I know how ridiculous this suggestion sounds. During my management career, I was often given advice on how to handle situations and employees. Much of it was about as helpful as “use the force.”
Today, as someone who conducts research at the intersection of management and spirituality, I frequently encounter ideas that seem similarly implausible. It turns out, however, that the “force” has some basis in science, and managers may be able to use it to their advantage!
Quantum theory suggests the entire universe is constructed of packets of vibrating waves of energy. These waves self-organize into magnetic fields with resonant frequencies that tend to steer all matter into a natural, ordered coherency. Metaphysicists are literally proposing all human beings are bound together at the atomic level, not only with each other, but with all creation.
Not convinced? Neuroscience has proposed similar ideas. Research using functional MRI scans has suggested feelings of pain, suffering, or joy are effectively transmitted through thin air. Whether an experience is direct or simply observed activates the same areas of the brain. Scientists have identified what are called “mirror neurons” or “empathy neurons” that unconsciously link human brains, creating a shared reality. These mirror neurons blur the distinct boundaries we tend to construct between ourselves and others.
So what does this have to do with management? Admittedly, the research is new, and I won’t be opening any Jedi academies soon. However, the more scientists learn about how human beings in organizations connect with each other, the better. All teamwork, innovation, and leadership rely on empathy. At a minimum, managers can encourage their workers to share experiences, helping to dissolve the barriers between themselves and their coworkers or customers.
Now, please go use your powers for good. You’re our only hope.