Friday 8 May 2009

Overcoming the law of inertia

I had some difficult stuff to do yesterday – emails and telephone calls that I was by no means sure would have the effect I wanted. So I pondered, puzzled and rearranged the words in my head and on the page. A conversation I had had the previous day came to mind and almost by accident I found Newton’s First Law of Motion.

Newton's 1st Law states that a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.
I’m not sure Newton had in mind a body sitting at a computer, but nonetheless the lesson sunk home.

This body could put off making the phone call or sending the email and remain at rest. The certain outcome would be that whilst I would not get a rejection, neither would I get the outcome I wanted.

Alternatively, the body could send the email and make the phone call, and set things in motion. If Newton was right, they would stay in motion. I had the evidence I needed, and emails were sent, phone calls were made and meetings duly set up.

Of course, the mere mention of this being the first law implies there are others, and Newton’s 3rd Law is also useful:

Newton's 3rd Law states that every action has an equal but opposite reaction.
Well at least one of my emails did have an opposite reaction – which was not a great surprise to me – even though it was a disappointment. A reaction is better than a body at rest and at least the motion can continue.

So whilst this isn’t the type of evidence I had in mind when I set my 30 day data-centric challenge, it has at least provided additional insight to my decision making process.


  1. A very intersting series of posts. Even found myself in Jermyn street today, home of Issac.

    Started me thinking about my school boy physics and suspect 1st law has something unless some force acts apon the body. Hence in performance management generally just assuming all is ok is probably not enough as things will slow down due to resistance or some other drag. So one needs to apply some force?

    Wondered also about 1st law of thermodynamics and energy conservation and how this might also apply in similar situation - equal to just moving the objects around the desk?

    From there I started think about quantum physics - 1st year engineering degree, and the ideas of Schrödinger's cat and Schrödinger's equation. Can see some parallels to the fact that life is in constant motion and we cannot treat as discrete electrons or events.

    Anyhow you definatley made me think, so thank you and great use of cretaive thinking. I wonder if you knew there was going to be a reaction migt you have applied a different force or more than one?

    Take care


  2. Interesting comments from so many different angles. Schoedinger's cat has been so much in th news lately, and so misunderstood (poor kitty) that trying to draw any parallels with performance management would probably only make things worse.

    I was, however, interested in your last comment. If I had known there was going to be an opposite reaction would I have applied a different or more than one force? The answer is that I suspected there very well might be an opposite reaction, but sitting at my desk and trying to guess what that might be was pointless. My worse fears were realised, but in truth actually moved the situation forward. Both sides now know where they stand, and are reconciled to their positions. Alternative strategies can now be employed. I was grateful to Newton for keeping me in motion. The other chap is blissfully unaware of such musings and ponderings, and long may that continue!

  3. I think to have moved forward is very positive and agree one maybe cannot plan with such precision as if every decsion can be observed as forces on a gyroscope might be predicted in terms of resulting movement.

    Something I will have to remember.

    keep musing

  4. Thhis is an eloquent way of saying "Pull your finger out and just do it!"

    There is no such thing as luck and taking action is the only way of improving your odds of being successful.

    As for the home of Isaac, your commentator might just have started a debate here. His family home is Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. That's where the apple landed on his head.

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