Return to the Title Page  THE LIFE CYCLE OF REVOLUTIONS: Forward  Proceed to the Introduction

John Maynard Keynes, the great economist of the 20th Century, ended his treatise on Employment, Interest, and Money 1 with:

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas ... But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

I believe this might just be such a collection of "scribblings," but I most assuredly don't want it to be academic, nor the handbook of madmen in authority. Instead, my hope is that it will bring understanding to readers, such as you, so that you can understand and manage your own revolutions in pursuit of a better life. As I write this, I am optimistic that it is for "good" and not "evil". For example, a great battle of the 20th Century raged over the Central Control (Communism) versus Market Control (Capitalism). This was sad, destructive, and fruitless. The fact is most Capitalist large companies are Centrally Controlled and, today, most Communist governments embrace Market Control. This book shows that both are just different stages in the life cycle of revolutions.

On the everyday scale of life, I also hope this book will improve the understanding of acting one way in one situation while acting perhaps the opposite in another can be good and right. For example, constantly making adjustments to a mature process or product can be right, but when the same product or process is involved in rapid growth can be dead wrong. Duplicity, needn't be good nor bad, but this book should help it to be understood, and thereby more easily discussed and transparent. I shall embrace and promote the idea that success comes from four dispositions (not merely two), depending on the "maturity" of the situation.

The power of these ideas comes from several sources:

  • The underpinnings are of a fundamental nature; the design derives from just two considerations: force and order.

  • The combination of these two considerations yield, not one, but four distinct and necessary patterns of behavior, paradigms, if you like.

  • These four paradigms and their sequence yield richly complex, dynamic, worlds, mutually consistent, and incredibly powerful, in fact, the very drivers of the revolution itself!

  • The basic ideas are scattered around the literature of psychology and management, but have never been assembled into a basic and comprehensive theory.

  • It required the viewpoint of contemporary Complexity/Chaos Theory to see that this is a "General Theory," not limited just to business, projects, and people.

This last point about the required viewpoint helped me understand why such a fundamental and important topic as the structure of success had not been discovered long ago. In fact, mulling this point, and how to say it, has taken me a decade.

About the title: By "Life Cycle," I mean the stages that all "Revolutions" will go through, stage by stage in the given order, whether that is the intent of its leaders or not. And, I mean that this General Theory is applicable to revolutions initiated by leaders. Also, I chose not "The," but "A" general theory. No absolute general theory is possible, because the subject is infinitely complex and concerned with human action. And, lastly, "General Theory" because it is independent of context and scale, as we'll see. It is applicable to improved understanding of the course of countries, corporations, committees, celebrities, and corpuscles, and, most important, to you!

It is  new, but not unprecedented. The precedents are interesting and deserving. Tuckman's 2 life cycle of a committee went through four stages which he called, "Forming, Storming, Norming (his word for 'marching to a single beat'), and Performing." His mantra outlines his ideas quite nicely, and I have "borrowed" it with admiration. Recently, I came across Ned Herrmann's Whole Brain Theory 3 whose mantra is "Strategize, Analyze, Organize, Personalize." His theory maps the right and left limbic and cerebral functions of the brain to the four problem solving modes (of his mantra). It is also substantially compatible with my theory. Tuckman works at the level of the committee; Herrmann at the personal and task levels. Numerous other scholars and writers have attributed something akin to these sequences to life cycles of everything from products to people's lives. Their writings have influenced me and their ideas have snuck into these pages. I hope that those that I have overlooked or am unable to recall will forgive me for not giving them proper attribution. ''The Art of doing mathematics consists in finding that special case which contains all the germs of generality.'' David Hilbert (1862-1943)

No one, however, has applied just one framework to such a grand range as will be done on these pages. Further, these ideas have connected the structure and operation of success to the phenomena of fractal 4,5 structures which I haven't found elsewhere in any literature (on management). This connection held me up for a decade, but I finally came to terms with it as a core hypothesis. It also explained why others hadn't seen the underlying structure of this General Theory. Fractals have an inherent order that, by definition, makes it impossible to perform "divide-and-conquer inquiry" (reductionism) that is customarily done to discover and test theories. Even today, reductionism is the primary tool of academic research, inhibiting the understanding of complex phenomena.

Just as this General Theory prescribes, the first stage on the way to fully actualizing an Idea is critically dependent on getting support. As a result of preaching this for years I have had the good fortune to receive an ample dose of support from friends, academics, and businessmen. For years, I handed out lists of paradigms, probably to hundreds of acquaintances and friends. One, Alan Kay of Xerox PARC fame, decided it was not just interesting, but important. He passed it along to John Sculley, then president of Apple Computer. In turn, John Sculley published his own variant in his book, Odyssey, with generous attribution. Others, not so visible, have been integral to the nurturing of these ideas. I would like to thank them here: Arthur Farnham, Oscar Hauptman, Nitin Nohria, John Friar, Adam Brandenburger, William Morris 6, Roger Bohn, Richard Hess, David Israel-Rosen, David Dauthier, and Robert Butler. This is the short list. A list I cannot compile consists of the numerous pointed, valuable, suggestions from those who have heard or seen my ideas at presentations, on the internet, or in person. To them, I apologize, but extend my heartfelt thanks. And, without my family's trust, confidence and love, I could not have carrried this to this point.

I dedicate this book to My Dear Mother who showed that the gifts of love and confidence are sufficient for anything to blossom. Her Way, like a miracle, transcends both theory and explanation. And, to my cousin, Robert Butler, who lived love in his life with his family and all who came within earshot, especially his many adoring students.''Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.'' Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1879 - 1955)


Keynes, John Maynard, 1936. The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, p. 149. return


Tuckman, B. S., 1965. Developmental Sequences in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletin, vol. 63: pp. 384-399. return


Herrmann, Ned, 1996. The Whole Brain Business Book, New York: McGraw-Hill. return


Fractal: a geometric pattern that is repeated at every scale and so cannot be represented by classical geometry. I, like many others, extend this to any pattern which is "self-similar " irrespective of scale. A familiar example is the hierarchical reporting pattern that, except for the top and the bottom, has all members having "reports" and a "boss", irrespective of level. The vice president has both as does the supervisor. Note that the content is may not be similar, but the reporting structure is. In the case of a hologram, the content is self-similar, albeit with lower resolution.return


You can think of the structure as being like an onion skin. At a high level of inquiry, you may see or prescribe one of the four stages, but if you dig to a lower level of analysis (such as a department within a company), you will likely find any one of the four stages predominating. Digging further (such as a function within the department), you will find yet another stage. In that fashion, it is fractal (that is, the four stages do operate at many levels, irrespective of scale). However, the stages within, often have no relationship to the higher stage. Hence, for example, an Entrepreneurial stage company may very likely have a Growth (or "Norming") stage accountingdepartment.return


Bill Morris worked with me on this almost a decade ago. At that time, along with his many other suggestions, he said it should be named, "The Endeavor Theory." Since this should be used in the business world, he wouldn't mind if it became known as, "Theory E." However, "E" is already caught in confusion over "Executive" and "Electronic," so I elected not to add "Endeavor" to the "'E' soup." return


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