An all time favourite read of mine is “The Universe and The Teacup” by K. C. Cole. The book is subtitled “The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty.” and in the introduction Dr Cole mentions the symmetry that comes into play in the work of Emmy Noether and Albert Einstein.
Truth and Beauty, she claims, are two sides of the same coin. When something is right it is self evidence from just looking at it. As an executive coach I travel a lot and I first found the book during a delay at Sydney airport about 12 years ago. I was totally engrossed and the hours in the coffee shop waiting for my flight just, well, flew by.
As one tends to with a book that really resonates, I go back and re-read parts of it from time to time. Often when something I have just done strikes a chord with something I recall reading. The last time this happened was about 4 years ago during the delivery of one of our executive coaching Profitable Leadership workshops. It was lunchtime, and I left the clients (a group of senior leaders from different organisations around the region) to eat while I popped back into the classroom to move a few things around for the afternoon session.
In the middle of the room was a senior department head from a research organisation. For context, to get into this organisation at the first level, you need to have your first PhD. To progress to department head, with about 400 staff below you, you will typically be on your third PhD, so I’m facing a pretty bright individual (this one actually was a rocket scientist!). The department head was standing in the centre of the room and slowly looking at a flip chart on one side, then across to a flip chart on the other. For a few minutes I watched him glance back and forth, then slowly nod his head.
“Can I help?” I ventured, timidly. “No” he replied, “It’s fine. I was just looking at the validation, very good!”
OK, so now I’m really terrified to open my mouth!
“Ah!” I said “Tell me more.”
He then went on to explain how he noticed the exact symmetry between our Profitable Leadership time allocation framework, and the Sources of Interference Framework (from the coaching approach we teach). “Good the way they self validate” he said “That must have taken some doing.”
I nodded, noncommittally, accepted the compliment and made a hasty exit.
I re-read the book that night. You see, the two frameworks he was referring to were actually developed about 2 years apart. I knew each was right, but had never seen the connection until he told me. Yet a very scientific and mathematical mind saw it straight away.
As I continue developing and enhancing our coaching work to higher levels, I have now put “looking for the symmetry” in as a standard part of the process.
Thank you K C Cole for the mathematics of truth and beauty.
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